Archive for June, 2011

8 Basic Tips for Structuring a Non-Profit Board

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

screening volunteers, criminaldata.comEvery nonprofit organization needs a board of directors. While specific responsibilities may vary due to the organization’s mission and its stage of existence, the roles and purposes of every board are similar.

Nonprofit volunteer boards must create their own structure, policies and procedures for governing the organization. Far beyond just meeting once a month, the board is responsible for developing its policies and terms of service.

Here are some tips for effective boards and committees:

  1. Make sure that all board members receive a written job description.
  2. Develop the year’s schedule of meetings a year in advance.
  3. Provide board members with meeting materials and agendas well in advance. Two to three weeks is optimal.
  4. Keep meetings focused, stick to the agenda and don’t linger on any one item longer than necessary. Briefer meetings are better meetings.
  5. Encourage all board members to participate in discussions.
  6. Take accurate minutes of all meetings and distribute to board members promptly afterwards.
  7. Require board members to serve on committees.
  8. Show appreciation of all volunteer board members by acknowledging contributions publicly, in newsletters, at meetings and in minutes.

Additional considerations for boards include the size of the board, the length of a board member’s term, and what committees are needed. Typical committees are Executive, Audit and Finance.

How Nonprofits Can Leverage Business Partnerships

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer backgound checkBusiness relationships can make a big difference to a non-profit organization. Whether developing partnerships for financial support, human resource (volunteer) support or product donations, nonprofits should tap into the offerings of local, regional and national businesses aiming to increase their corporate social responsibility profile and do good things.

Reaching out to corporate partners can be uncomfortable at first, but if you have a good development director, it should be a part of his or her job duties. A natural first step might be contacting local businesses, entrepreneurs and community service organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary International.

Finding avenues for business to help your nonprofit in a win-win situation is the key. While an event sponsorship might be a perfect fit for a financial institution, it might be too much for a construction company. You might ask for their help in other ways – like volunteering their employees to perform repairs on your building or to donate a crew for a day to fix up an elderly client’s home.

Another way for a business to become a valuable partner is through cause-related marketing. For example, a company donates a portion of every sale of a featured item, for a limited time, advertising their efforts and creating goodwill among the public.

Still additional avenues for businesses to get on board with a nonprofit are social enterprises and donating products or services. A social enterprise is a business venture that combines profit making with social advancement. An ice cream shop started expressly to donate all profits to a charity is one example. Another is a work training program that restores and sells used appliances, in order to fund its programs to train displaced workers in appliance repair.

For some companies, donating products or services is the easiest way to support charity work in their community. A web design firm may be able to provide your nonprofit with the new website you need—and they may do it for free or a reduced cost. Advertising, event banners, office supplies and food for events are additional ways your local business community may be willing to support your nonprofit.

Be sure to offer publicity in exchange for a business’s good deeds. Adding a logo to a banner, blasting positive posts on your e-newsletter, Facebook and Twitter and mentioning your business partners in every interview and story about your nonprofit will demonstrate your appreciation and give the company an enhanced image, which is always a good thing.

Sometimes, all it takes is an ask to start forming valuable relationships with business partners that can really make a difference to your organization’s bottom line!

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Hidden and Possible Costs of Volunteers

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

volunteer background checkVolunteers can cost your non-profit organization money. While they don’t get a paycheck every two weeks, are not enrolled in your healthcare plan and don’t require any payroll taxes, volunteers are more of an investment than free employees.

Improper volunteer management can cost a charity dearly. Consider the case of one non-profit volunteer who was dismissed inappropriately. She campaigned for 18 months to clear her name, causing widespread negative publicity for the NPO, along with the expense of an internal investigation. Eventually, she was cleared and the executive director was forced to apologize. Who knows what impact the negative publicity had on donations?

Advertising, networking and recruiting for volunteers takes an investment of time. And sometimes there are out of pocket expenses – like background checks and training supplies. You don’t want to add in the costs of fighting a lawsuit to that total, do you? A volunteer recently sued a non-profit for discriminating against her because of a disability. Even though volunteers are not employees, it’s a good idea to become familiar with and follow the guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.

This particular case was settled in favor of the NPO, but they still had a significant outlay of cash to cover legal defense. The ideal defense is a good offense; so to avoid expanding problems and expenses, consider creating a policy and a procedure for volunteer complaints. When volunteers submit complaints or grievances, acting quickly can prevent the problem from growing in scope and in cost.

Finally, a thorough background and credit check on potential volunteers can also help you avoid litigation – especially if your organization serves vulnerable populations. Keep your employees, clients and other volunteers safe by conducting thorough volunteer background checks.