Archive for July, 2012

Branding Sets Your Non-Profit Apart From the Crowd

Friday, July 27th, 2012

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkTry to imagine McDonald’s without its gold arches, or Starbucks without its mermaid. They’re part of the experience customers have each time they interact with these companies—whether in person, through online, TV or print ads, or through social media platforms. Branding is important to these global companies, because it helps customers understand what the company is about, and reinforces that meaning at every opportunity.

A brand is how your audiences think of your organization, and the promise you offer. Branding can extend awareness, build trust and attract resources and partnerships for non-profit organizations. It can motivate donors, staff and volunteers, as well as beneficiaries.

You’re going to leave an impression in someone’s mind, anyway, so why not make sure you’re controlling it through effective branding? Start with the very essence of your organization; your mission statement is a great place to begin. Then distill it down until it differentiates your organization from every other one out there. Finally, use it consistently in every form of communication.

Differentiating your agency from others through branding starts with having a name that works, and extends to every other aspect of operations: from the look, tone, voice and the way you deliver your services. Your organization’s name, logo and tagline can come together in a package that quickly and effectively communicates what you’re about to the internal and external audiences: from the board of directors to the general public.

Your name and tagline should say what you do and whom you serve as simply as possible. For example, if your organization helps find housing for Boston-area homeless families with children, you might be called “Under One Roof,” with a tagline, “Keeping Boston families together in safe, affordable housing.” A simple logo can graphically depict the name and tagline, and help to reinforce the mission at a glance.

Keeping logo colors consistent is vital to strong branding. If your logo colors are deep purple and white, never use pastel lavender and yellow. Every time your logo is seen, it should look consistent. The same goes for typefaces used for your name and tagline.

Branding might not seem like it applies to non-profit organizations, but in a crowded and competitive field, an attractive, consistent brand that communicates what your agency is about can help you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Smaller Volunteer Agencies May Be More Susceptible to Fraud

Friday, July 20th, 2012

volunteer screening, background checksIt seems that the news is peppered with stories about small, local charity agencies that are falling prey to fraud by trusted volunteers. Church groups, youth sports clubs, elderly service organizations—they can all be victims of crimes like theft, misappropriation of funds and money laundering. Whether the thief takes money, equipment or other needed goods, nonprofits are often ill-equipped to carry the loss and rebound. Many go under as a result of financial misconduct.

Back in the 1950s, a famous criminologist developed the “Fraud Triangle” theory. It outlines the three key elements at play when otherwise law-abiding volunteers succumb to temptation and engage in fraud: opportunity, motivation and rationalization. For some, the motivation is debt. For others, they rationalize that the organization doesn’t need the money, and a small amount won’t be missed. Still other volunteers may need money to pay for their own or a loved one’s drug problems.

Since it’s clear that even those in positions of great trust will turn to fraud, non profit organizations must take precautions to prevent volunteers from having the opportunity to do so.

Here are some tips to control opportunity:

  • Establish a system of control to deter and detect fraud. Never allow just one person access to checking accounts, books and financial records. Require double signatures on all checks over a given amount, and have the books audited by a professional on a regular basis. Don’t have the same people who collect money to also deposit it.
  • Promote openness. Thieves thrive in secret, closed-off, non-communicative environments. Promote open communication and encourage everyone to report any suspicious behavior. It’s not necessary to be paranoid, but it is best to be proactive to protect the goodwill of the organization, and to ensure its stability and ability to fulfill its mission.
  • Have a zero-tolerance policy. Let everyone know that any suspected fraud will be investigated, not swept under the rug.
And of course, conduct background checks on all volunteers. Rely on for your volunteer prescreening services. Protect your staff, clients, and your community with volunteer background checks.

More Volunteers Assist the Aged

Friday, July 6th, 2012, volunteer background checkAs the elderly population increases in the U.S. and around the world, services to assist seniors continue to grow in demand. Senior citizens who wish to remain in their own homes can get help with meal preparation or transportation to doctor’s appointments. They can get rides to the grocery store or have their yard work and housecleaning taken care of. Or, they may just have face-to-face or telephone check ins to make sure they’re managing okay.

Often, these services are lifelines for seniors, and make the difference between the ability to remain at home and going into assisted living. Many of these services are provided by federal, state and local agencies. Private for-profit companies provide other services. And increasingly, senior services are provided by nonprofit organizations with volunteer labor.

One couple, both in their 70s, were unable to drive to their frequent medical appointments. With no relatives living nearby, they faced a difficult choice—until a local community outreach organization sent volunteers to pick them up, take them to the doctor and then deliver them back home. Another needs help with keeping their home clean. Volunteers who come to clean can also check up on the elderly and report on any concerns for follow-up by appropriate agencies.

Matching volunteers with seniors is an important aspect of the service. Orientation and training sessions for new volunteers are vital to help them learn about the aging process. Volunteers must also be carefully screened, undergoing background checks before having any contact with vulnerable populations.

Many senior service organizations are experiencing an aging of their volunteers, as well. Recruiting new volunteers is an ongoing challenge. Fortunately, the growing number of retiring baby boomers looking for meaningful volunteer work should help to boost the numbers of willing volunteers.

A growing population of elderly people who need help will continue to provide volunteer opportunities long into the future—for people of all ages.