Archive for March, 2010

Planning and Passion Make Big Fundraising Events More Successful

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

For most non profit organizations, annual events are a big opportunity to raise a large chunk of their operating budget. So most NPOs have a lot riding on these big annual or semi-annual events. How can you make them pay off when you might have few resources?

The key is planning. If you’re new to your NPO management position, gather as much information on how the event was run in the past: find out who was on the committee, what was each person responsible for, what fell through the cracks, and what was successful. Do this for each area of the event: location, catering, entertainment, publicity, donor outreach, volunteer recruitment, auction check-out, etc.

If you were in charge of last year’s event, look at it with a fresh eye. Solicit feedback from committee members, volunteers, and attendees. Put out an email survey to your mailing list through Survey Monkey or a similar service. You want to know if people enjoyed the event, and why—or if they didn’t, you need to hear that, too. “What can we do better/different?” is always the most valuable information to know.

Here are some other ideas for successful event planning:
Pick a date as soon as possible—and don’t let it be too far in the future. Sometimes, having a short timeline means the biggest details are taken care of right away. Longer lead times can lead to procrastination—and possibly losing out on a location or caterer. With a firm event date closing in on the committee, they are forced to work creatively, quickly, and to know exactly what needs to be done.

Involve your audience: create a community around your event on social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter. A Facebook fan page is a great place to announce the event, invite feedback, solicit volunteers, and ask fans for help in publicizing your event. When attendees accept your invitation, their friends will see your event on their pages. This way, you’ll see the numbers of people who are aware of your event grow exponentially. Social marketing is a great way to spread the news quickly among the people who already know about your organization, and the ones who have never heard of it.

Be passionate, and find passionate volunteers to help. You can’t host a successful event if the organizers aren’t all that interested in it. If you’re not passionate about it, then maybe it’s the wrong event for your NPO—so you might want to start thinking of something different for next year. But if you are so into the event that you can’t stop talking about it—that’s a great sign! Ask your friends and contacts to help you and infuse them with your enthusiasm. Passion is palpable, and makes people want to respond.

Big events are fun for your supporters, valuable to your non profit organization, and usually exhausting for the organizer—but they are also necessary to the financial health of most charitable organizations. So take a look at these and other tips to make big events as successful as they can be!

Risk Management for Non Profits

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Executive Directors of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) wear many hats—especially these days, when budgets are tight and staff is scarcer than ever.

One thing you might not take time to consider often is risk and litigation avoidance—but doing so is vital to the health and well-being of every NPO. Lawsuits stemming from a non profit’s every day activities have the potential to hit hard, with damages and legal fees amounting to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Employment practices are probably the largest source of potential trouble for nonprofits. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that employment practices complaints rose sharply in the early 90s and held steady around 80,000 cases reported annually, until 2008, when the number jumped to 95,000!

Claims are highest for race discrimination, followed by sex, national origin, religion, retaliation, age and disability discrimination. Non profits must be highly cautious around hiring practices—for both paid employees and volunteers. Proper hiring, interviewing, training, and record-keeping are constant challenges. Good practices must be established and diligently enforced, and NPO executives must be up on all applicable employment laws.

A newer trend is donors suing nonprofits over use of their funds. When private donations make up a significant part of your revenue, it’s especially important to practice transparency and keep meticulous records. Unfortunately, nonprofits are accused of fraud at increasing rates, and donors are more sensitive than ever about how their money is spent on administrative expenses.

Government enforcement and regulatory agencies are keeping a close watch on nonprofits to ensure that public grant money is used judiciously. Improper transactions can be deemed illegal, and the IRS can revoke a non profit’s tax-exempt status, impose a penalty, or both.

Nonprofits, like any business, must monitor liability insurance coverage, and update when needed. Protecting staff, volunteers, and clients from harm is absolutely vital to keeping your nonprofit organization functioning and fulfilling its mission.

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

Featured Corporate Volunteer Program: Chevron

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Chevron is a massive energy company, with operations in every corner of the globe, thousands of employees, and retail outlets from Canada, to China, to Colombia.

Residents of countries and communities where Chevron employees work benefit from the company’s commitment to sustainability and long-term socioeconomic benefits, like health care, water, sanitation, volunteers, and disaster response.

Chevron partners with North Star Foundation, which operates roadside health clinics at truck stops and border crossings in Africa and Asia. Their center for HIV/AIDS testing, education and wellness care is located in a “hotspot” area, where drivers and people from the surrounding communities can access services, leading to a 17% decline in sexually-transmitted infections in five years.

Chevron was the first Corporate Champion of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, using its financial power, as well as its ability to leverage medical experts from around the world, to work on eradicating these devastating diseases. Chevron is giving $30 million to the fund.

In the Gulf Coast of the U.S., Chevron is a major employer and presence. After Hurricane Ike in Port Arthur, TX, volunteer employees of the local lubricants plant assisted the elderly and others who needed help with clearing debris and trees, removing flood-damaged flooring and installing temporary roofs.

In addition, Chevron launched a three-year effort to support public education in school districts affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. From new whiteboards and computers to leadership training, the program was deemed a great success for the children, their teachers, families and communities.

Chevron Humankind is a community-based program that matches employee and retiree contributions to non profit organizations, funds grants for volunteer time and sponsors volunteer programs. In 2008, the program recorded more than 110,0900 hours of volunteering, and $20 million in contributions to NPOs.

Chevron’s efforts to improve lives both in the U.S. and around the globe are seeing real, measurable results.

All images courtesy of Chevron

Spotlight on Houston Zoo’s Volunteer Outreach

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Courtesy of Houston Zoo

non profit website that caught our eye recently is the Houston Zoo. Take a look and you’ll see why! The site is colorful, but not cluttered, organized perfectly and highly interactive.

Visitors to the site can easily find upcoming events for adults and kids, all the latest zoo news (including updates on soon-to-be-born baby elephants!), videos and activities. The site is updated daily, plus features a live Twitter stream. Following the zoo on Twitter, becoming a fan on Facebook, and connecting to the Zoo’s Flicker photostream and You Tube Channel are as easy as clicking your mouse on the home page buttons.

Interested in supporting or volunteering at the Houston Zoo? They make it any easy. Of the seven main navigation tabs, one is “Make a Donation.” You can see how important fundraising outreach is to the zoo. From that tab, one can choose from a variety of options:

  • Donor Clubs: the zoo offers several tiers of support level, from the Flock, aimed at young professionals, to the Asante Society for higher-level givers. All supporters receive special perks and invitations to private tours and parties.
  • The African Forest: This special project gets its own area of the site, fully explaining the vision and soliciting support to make it a reality.
  • Fundraisers: Large-scale events and smaller family-oriented parties are highlighted, with photos from past years and “mark your calendars” information about this year’s dates.
  • Corporate Support: Clear details on how corporations and businesses can sponsor events and volunteer at the zoo make getting involved a no-brainer. Plus, the content is obviously written with the reader’s motivation in mind, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” Answer: visibility, brand enhancement, exposure, and wide appeal.
  • Corporate Volunteer Program: this area of the site is well-writeen and appealing, outlining the ways business gourps can become involved, the commitment required, and how to get started with becoming a volunteer.

Finally, the zoo’s Annual Fund Drive and Other Ways to Give tabs make it easy to do just that.

Other ways this site is a winner:

  • The site creates instant credibility by featuring the Zoo’s accreditations at the bottom of the home page, along with a Better Business Bureau seal;
  • Hours, prices, directions, zoo maps and newsletter sign-up are at the top of each page;
  • An interactive “Ask us a question” form and the event calendar appear on all 2nd- and 3rd-tier pages; and
  • A big “Donate Now” button shows up on most 2nd and 3rd tier pages.

Non profits can learn a few tricks from Houston Zoo’s website. Even if your non profit cannot manage the high-level programming and graphics that this site has, you can still borrow most of the outreach ideas. Clear content that answers visitors’ questions and keeps them coming back are easily achievable website goals!