Archive for February, 2011

New Survey Reveals Higher 2010 Revenues for Nonprofits

Friday, February 25th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkA recent survey of nonprofit executive directors revealed that half had seen their revenues increase last year. The report, released by the Bridgespan Group, also said that out of 102 EDs surveyed, 60% are actively seeking talent to hire, compared to 31% the previous year.

This is good news for nonprofits everywhere. While the survey sample is not a huge number, it does indicate that things are starting to look up for nonprofits after a few very tough years.

The survey reports:

  • 32% of respondents said their organization faced funding cuts in 2010, compared to 80% in 2009
  • Of these, only half experienced cuts greater than 10%; in 2009, 77% of funding cuts exceeded 10%
  • Half of nonprofits responding said they had seen an increase in revenues over the past year
  • Most of those experiencing growth saw increases of 10% of more (63%), while 29% experienced 20% increases or more

Nonprofits Try New Strategies in Challenging Economic Times
The nonprofits that experienced growth often implemented new strategies, including:

  • 84% of higher-revenue nonprofits developed contingency plans
  • 94% of increasing-revenue nonprofits increased efforts to accurately measure outcomes
  • 59% of nonprofits with increased revenues nonprofits created a communications plan that addressed recession-related issues, compared to only 43% of declining-revenue organizations
  • 22% of nonprofits that saw revenues increase participated in some form of collaboration with other nonprofits

It’s certainly good to report some positive news about nonprofit revenues. Not only has the rate of declining revenue slowed, the size of cuts have also decreased.

Nonprofits: Using Twitter Effectively

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Twitter, the 140-character-limit social networking and messaging service, has been in the news quite a bit lately, especially with the political events in Egypt. When in our history have so many people been connected so quickly and easily in support of a common goal?

That’s the beauty of Twitter—nonprofit groups can use this popular tool to not only communicate quickly with their supporters, they can also raise visibility for their cause, for an event or to raise funds.

Here are 5 tips for nonprofits to use Twitter effectively:

  1. Connecting through online social media tools is a great first step to creating a long-term supporter. Don’t neglect the follow up, by inviting the person to visit your website or sign up for newsletters. They might not donate right away, but you can lay the foundation for future support.
  2. Be real. People want to know that there is a person behind the tweets, so don’t be afraid to engage in a real conversation or reveal your personality. And use your name or the name of your organization so people feel a connection.
  3. Make it easy for donors to donate! If you don’t already have one, add a “donate now” button to your website. When you send out a tweet asking for money, be sure to link to the page that includes this link. Don’t make your supporters click through more than one page to give you money—or you risk losing them.
  4. Tell people what the money is for. Share a quick story—in as few characters as possible—of how donations will make a real difference in someone’s life, in the community or for the environment. Make that emotional connection.
  5. Make it a two-way conversation: Don’t forget to listen as much as you talk. If you have people asking questions, that’s a sign of success—be sure to respond to what people are saying about your organization. Address concerns and nip in the bud any misconceptions that are floating around.

Tips for Leading Volunteer Teams

Friday, February 11th, 2011

screening volunteers, volunteer background checkWhy does one volunteer coordinator excel at leading teams while others struggle with it? While some people come by their leadership abilities naturally, it is a skill that can be learned; however, just like learning the piano, it takes regular practice.

Leadership Tips for Volunteer Managers

  1. Get people excited about your mission: If you’re not enthusiastic about what your organization is doing, how can you expect your volunteers to be? The moment your drive lags a bit, someone will be affected by it—so do what you have to do to stay motivated.
  2. Tap into volunteers’ needs: Find out why each person is there. For one volunteer, it might be to find a community. Others are fulfilling a spiritual mandate to give back. Still others are motivated by being needed. When you get to know your volunteers and their reasons for doing it, you’ll be better able to meet their needs.
  3. Show you care: This is related to number two. While every volunteer might have a different reason for doing it, they all have one common need: to feel like someone cares. Showing an interest in your volunteers’ family and personal lives—without prying or becoming too familiar—is important. Remember that each individual will have a different comfort level regarding sharing personal information, so proceed carefully.
  4. Show appreciation: Another common need among volunteers: to feel appreciated. When volunteers start feeling that the only thing you care about is that they show up to work, trouble can begin. If you start seeing negativity or bad attitudes in your formerly happy volunteers, ask yourself how long it has been since you’ve shown appreciation for their service.
  5. Don’t waste their time: Find specific tasks or jobs that fit each volunteer’s interests and talents. This can be difficult, but it’s important to keep them productive and feeling that their time served was not wasted.

Keeping volunteers engaged is an importnat aspect of managing them—and it takes leadership skills to do it successfully. If you’re struggling with leading volunteers, these tips are easy to implement. Try all five and see how quickly your relationship with your organization’s volunteers improve.

Guidelines for Screening Volunteers

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

volunteer screening blogManaging risk in a non-profit organization can take many forms: proper management, adequate insurance coverage and financial oversight are three ways to prevent loss. Another is thoroughly screening all volunteers. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Create some standards for your volunteer screening process, and apply them to every volunteer applicant. You may decide to run the same level of background and credit check on each applicant. Or, you may determine the risk level to the organization of each volunteer position, and increase or decrease the screening level accordingly.
  • Decide what to do with the information you receive on the credit and criminal background report. For example, if a potential volunteer has had several speeding tickets or other moving violations, you may decide they are qualified to supervise a kids’ basketball game, but not to drive the organization’s van to the game. It’s also important to decide at what level of legal trouble an applicant will be rejected.
  • Keep good records. A spreadsheet listing the volunteer’s name, position, important dates, and results of the background check and reference checks could come in handy some day.
  • If your organization serves vulnerable populations, it makes sense to take extra care with your interview and screening process. The same applies for any position that requires the volunteer to interact with the general public. But keep in mind that anyone deemed unsuitable to work with the public will probably have contact with other volunteers and staff—do you want them exposed to such a risk?

Remember, whether an employee is paid or a volunteer, the organization could be subject to liability for any harm resulting from his or her actions. Don’t subject your non-profit to unnecessary risk—conduct volunteer background screening on every applicant!