Archive for the ‘Not for Profit Tips’ Category

Increasing Donations by Increasing Attention

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Nonprofits have had a rough few years, as most of their donors have struggled in the down economy. Volunteer managers and fundraisers have been beating the bushes for help and money, and may feel at the end of their respective ropes. But there are always new methods of attracting attention to your cause, which can help improve funding and the flow of volunteers, as well.

If you’re ready for some fresh tips on how to stay in front of your local and regional media, read on.

Sponsor a contest: Drum up support by holding a fun contest. The prizes can be donated by local businesses, or you could offer a scholarship to a graduating high school senior.

Honor someone: Recognize a community leader, a member of your board of directors, a longtime volunteer or local philanthropist. Schedule a ceremony, luncheon or banquet. You’ll not only garner a lot of press, but you’ll also have an opportunity to ask for donations.

Piggyback on supporters’ efforts: Make a deal with businesses that support your efforts, no matter how large or small. List their logos in your marketing efforts, mention them on Facebook and Twitter postings, and promote them whenever you can—and then ask them to do the same. It’s a win-win.

Work with a like-minded charity: Pairing up with another nonprofit on a project or event makes it bigger in the eyes of the press. Not only will the event draw attention, but the collaboration will, too. You’ll have the advantage of a larger pool of potential donors, and the opportunity to educate a new audience on your mission.

These ideas may not be revolutionary, but when added to your daily efforts of promoting your cause by building community, they may be just what your organization has needed.

Remember how important it is for you to remain in charge. If one volunteer starts undermining your authority or treating others unfairly,  or you could see a decline in morale and increased turnover.

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

Why Volunteer? Because It’s Good For You

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkIf you’re a nonprofit volunteer coordinator, you may be responsible for coming up with volunteer news or other nuggets for your organization’s newsletter. Interesting news that also encourages people to volunteer is even better.

If you could use a few good volunteers, here are a few good reasons to entice them, all related to a healthy, happy life (and who wouldn’t want that?):

  • Volunteering is good for your health. Research done by the Mayo Clinic indicates that 40 to 100 hours of volunteering per year can help you feel younger, live longer, and lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Volunteering is good for self-confidence and quality of life. Research shows that volunteering creates a “helping high,” which you can feel when your body releases neurotransmitters into your system. It’s also been shown to keep depression at bay.
  • New research has just begun, which will study links between volunteering and brain health through the aging process. The project will measure physical and social functioning and how volunteering may enhance older adults’ cognitive functions, such as memory and attention span.
  • Baby boomers are going to be reaching age 65 by the millions in the next 30 years. So any research that proves volunteering can keep them healthy and alert longer is good news—especially to this group, which exercises, eats well and will try almost anything to keep from aging too quickly.
  • Volunteering two hours per week can give people a new sense of purpose and enhance their social network. Older people, who are at risk of depression as a result of isolation and loneliness, especially need to feel needed and valued.
  • Volunteering is a much better way to spend time than being parked in front of a television or on a park bench. It makes people feel like part of something bigger. It encourages camaraderie, team-building and community-building.
  • Volunteering can be like a free education. Many volunteers pick up new skills and explore areas they were previously not familiar with. It improves communication and leadership skills, and can even lead to formal education and certification opportunities.

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!

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

Tips for Volunteer Retention

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

volunteer retentionMost volunteer managers want good volunteers to stick around. But sometimes, life prevents volunteers from continuing their work with your nonprofit organization. Others move away. And then there are those volunteers who prefer to help for short-term projects at different times throughout the year. But for those willing and able to volunteer long-term, how do you retain them?

Volunteer retention starts with great communication—and that starts with the recruitment process. When both sides are clear from the beginning what the needs are, what the position entails, and what time commitment is needed, you’re more likely to retain the volunteer. There should be no questions about duties or hours needed. If your volunteer leaves because you indicated a maximum commitment of 2 hours a day and they cannot complete their tasks in that amount of time, you have a problem with process or communication—not retention.

During the interview process, repeat the job description for the available volunteer position. Assess their skills to ensure the volunteer is right for the job. Placing volunteers in positions that match their interests and abilities is an important step in retention.

Set aside sufficient time for orientation. Welcoming new volunteers and integrating them into the organization’s mission and culture is vital to a smooth transition. Show new volunteers where everything they need is located, and be sure to introduce them to all other volunteers and staff they’ll be working with. Let them know who to turn to when they have questions or problems.

Thorough training is important. Depending on the volunteer and the job they’re matched to, they may need little training, or extensive training. Try different techniques to see which are most successful for each volunteer—everyone learns differently. Ask for input and feedback to ensure you’re giving the volunteer the training they need, and that they are comfortable with their tasks.

Check in often. Informal chats as well as formal evaluations are a good mix. Especially in the beginning, ask new volunteers how they are doing, if they feel they’re succeeding at their tasks, and what help you can provide. Semi-annual evaluations will allow you and the volunteer time to review expectations, performance, and satisfaction. Provide constructive feedback and ask how you can better support their efforts.

Provide variety. Don’t expect a volunteer to enjoy the same tasks for a long period of time. Some folks like variety, so don’t forget to ask your volunteers if they are happy with their job or if they’d like to try new tasks.

Give recognition and express appreciation. You’d be surprise how many volunteers say they left a nonprofit organization because they didn’t feel appreciated! Tell your volunteers how much you need and appreciate their efforts. It will go a long way to volunteer retention.

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

America’s Giving Challenge Makes Social Marketing Pay Off for Non Profits

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

agc-logo on volunteer screening blogDeveloping a strong presence on social media outlets is a proven marketing tool for businesses and non profit organizations. Increasing awareness for your cause, making it easier for supporters to donate time and money, and promoting events are just a few ways that Facebook and Twitter are used successfully by non profits every day.

And now, social media savvy non profits have an advantage—by spreading the word quickly, they can compete for cash through America’s Giving Challenge, a daily giveaway that rewards causes with the highest number of donations each day through November 6, 2009.

Non profits that connect with supporters through a regularly-updated website, blog, email newsletters, and on social media sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have already built the infrastructure that allows them to take advantage of a contest like this. Causes was built on Facebook, with the sole purpose of putting power, in the form of dollars, in the hands of the people. Every 24 hours, whichever charity gets the most donations—of any amount—gets $1,000. Second highest number gets $500 each day.

The grand prize for the contest awards $50,000 to the non profit that gets the highest number of individual donations. Second prize is $25,000, and $10,000 goes to each of the next five causes.

It’s easy to sign up your cause, donate to a cause, and see how the contest is going. (Today’s leader is Overseas China Education Foundation, with 101 donations.) Set a goal for your organization to gather 100, 150, or 200 small donations, and you could be in the running for the $1,000 daily prize. And the way social marketing works, you could soon see thousands of donations for your cause, along with increased awareness, more volunteers, and engaged supporters!

Run for the Money: How to Start a Fundraising Race for Your Non Profit

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

runners-at-the-start-of-race on volunteer screening blogSponsored running events can be a great way to raise funds for your non profit organization. Runners and walkers are a close-knit group in most communities, and enjoy entering 5K, 10K, 15K, half marathon, and marathon races for charity. In return for their entrance fee, participants get a chance to post a good race time, reach a personal goal, and receive a goodie bag, a shirt, and free food. Your non profit organization receives free publicity, increased exposure, and a portion of the entrance fees!

Your first step should be to form a race committee. Dedicated volunteers who are committed to putting in the time necessary to pull off a race are a necessity. Plan on at least six months for your volunteers to plan the race.

Next, talk to a local running or sporting goods store. You may find that they sponsor or help produce a number of charity runs, and have great experience to share.

Establish a budget. There will be plenty of out-of-pocket expenses, from fencing to timing chips, numbered bibs to advertising. Entrance and liability waiver forms will need to be printed, and you’ll need insurance, too.

Set up plenty of spreadsheets and checklists—you’ll need them!

Solicit sponsors. You’ll want to approach local businesses to give goods, services, or cash in return for publicity. Bakeries can donate bread, muffins, or bagels for runners. If asked, many grocery stores will donate fruit or water. Graphic designers might offer poster and ad layout services. Sign companies can give banners for the start/finish line, as well as directional signs for runners. Retailers can offer gift certificates for raffle prizes or goodie bags.

You’ll need loads of volunteers; from pre-race publicity, distributing flyers, and charting the course, to race-day check-in, logistics, handling runners, putting out food, staffing water and first aid stations, traffic flaggers, and an emcee for announcements. Solicit volunteers early and often!

Get the word out! Face-to-face networking at Rotary meetings and Chamber of Commerce events, along with social networking on Facebook and Twitter, blogging, and press releases are all going to be necessary. Get ready to start talking about your non profit fundraising race, stay within your budget and on schedule, and cross your fingers for fair weather on race day!

Does Your Organization Have a Good Online Personality?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

older-couple-on-computer on volunteer screening blotWhat is your nonprofit organization’s personality like? Is it pretentious, or welcoming? Will potential donors, staff, and volunteers think it’s stiff and formal, or casual and fun? More importantly, does the organization’s personality align with its mission and goals?

It is important to communicate your NPO’s personality in a way that resonatess with your targeted donors and supporters. The first place to analyze this piece of your communications strategy is your website—because that’s where most people will go to learn more.

Is your website content and design friendly or pretentious? Welcoming or chilly? Serious or upbeat? Determine what “voice” best matches your organization’s goals and its mission. Does the website content match that ideal voice? Or will visitors feel a disconnect between what they perceive about your organization and what is communicated on the website? Make sure your charity’s goals and needs are clearly communicated in a voice that matches your mission.

How easy is it to donate to your organization through your website? Will potential donors be turned off by too many steps and windows? Can visitors interact through comment boxes, easily sign up for a newsletter, or learn more about the organization? Are volunteers easily able to communicate their desire to help?

Picture your website visitors in your mind: are they happy and smiling, learning what they want to know, or are they frustrated and confused? You want them to think your organization has a good personality. You can help by ensuring the website is easy to navigate, that they clearly understand your purpose and needs, and that they can interact easily with your organization.

If your organization has a bad online personality, consider revamping your website.

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

Fundraising 101: Tell a Single Story

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

poverty on volunteer screening blogIdeas and suggestions around fundraising abound—if non profit managers had a dollar for each one, they probably wouldn’t need to fund raise! But if you’re like us, you agree that there is no such thing as too many good ideas. So here’s another one: when asking donors for money, tell a single story.

In his book, “The Life You Can Save,” Peter Singer of Princeton University gives examples of human beings going to great effort to save the lives of others—one-on-one. But in the larger picture, millions die from starvation, disease, and malnutrition—when the rest of us have the resources to save them.

The example points to how human nature works at its basic level. When we’re presented with the choice to rescue a single person who is right in front of us, most would do the right thing and help. When the need becomes too big, or faceless—as in the problems of lack of clean water, medicine, and food among poor populations on the other side of the globe—we tend to think we can’t do anything about it.

Telling the single story is a powerful tool for non profit organization (NPO) marketers and managers. How are you approaching your fundraising efforts? Are you presenting a problem that seems just too big to solve to your prospective donors?

Try featuring a single effort, challenge, group, or person when communicating your NPO’s funding needs. Tell a success story—how your organization improved the life of one person, or one dog, or one neighborhood. Tell a story about what happens to a single bird in the forest when its habitat is destroyed. Focus on the people in one family who lost a treasured home in a tornado.

Remember how human nature seems to work: while individuals are willing to save the person who’s drowning right in front of them, they are apparently unwilling to donate money to save one who’s dying half a world away.

The Value of Branding for Non Profits

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

branding image on volunteerscreeningblog.comA recent report examined the brand value of non profit organizations in the United States. It was the first to rank charities by a combination of revenue, brand awareness, and potential for growth, rather than just financial performance.

The report was compiled by Cone, a branding agency, together with Intangible Business, a valuation consultancy, to help NPOs understand how their branding efforts are related to raising funds.  According to the report, non profit brands must be protected and evolved in order to generate the most revenue.

So, who came out on top? YMCA of the USA, with a brand value of $6.4 billion. Here are the top ten Nonprofit Power Brands:

1. YMCA of the USA

2. The Salvation Army

3. United Way of America

4. American Red Cross

5. Goodwill Industries International

6. Catholic Charities

7. Habitat for Humanity International

8. American Cancer Society

9. The Arc of the United States

10. Boys & Girls Clubs of America

What does branding mean to your organization? Often, nonprofits have a purpose, mission, and vision that are clear to everyone within the organization, but fall flat in its communications.  Do you have a difficult time explaining what it is your organization does or whom it serves?  Does everyone associated with your NPO tell a different story?  Have you had difficulty communicating a consistent message? If so, you have a branding problem.

Branding is more than a logo and a tagline—although both are very important to every organization!  Branding is the message, the promise, the core of your organization. The brand establishes your NPO as a worthy and valuable institution that donors can feel good about supporting—and volunteers want to work for. And it must be conveyed consistently in every touch point with your service population, community, staff, volunteers, and supporters.

Check out the websites of the top 10 Nonprofits and see for yourself how important a consistent brand effort is to each of them. Then think about your NPO’s brand message—or lack of one—so you can start improving it. You might even improve your bottom line, too!

Remember that thorough volunteer screening will help you recruit and retain the best volunteers for your organization.

Building an Email List for Your Nonprofit Organization

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

@sign image on volunteer screening blogIn our last post, we discussed the merits of starting a blog for your nonprofit organization (NPO). Blogs are a great way to keep in touch with and engage your supporters. You can also gain permission to update them on your NPO through email blasts and newsletters.

In this age of digital communication, it’s vital that you regularly engage the people interested in your organization. But you can’t do it without a healthy mailing list. How can you expand a wimpy mailing list to make your efforts pay off?

Make the ask: Provide a sign-up sheet at business events, health fairs, farmers markets, and community events so interested attendees can provide their email address. Make it clear that they are agreeing to receive news from your NPO. You could even provide a small incentive, like a bumper sticker or key chain with your organization’s logo, to everyone who signs up.

Utilize your website: Along with a form for in-person events, your website should have a newsletter sign-up form on every page. Make it easy for supporters to find it, and they’ll fill it out. Be sure to make it a quick and easy process. Test it often to make sure the form functions properly.

Leverage fundraising events: When people sign up online or purchase tickets for fundraising events, capture their email address at the same time—and let them know they’ll be receiving occasional correspondence.

Don’t miss opportunities in your office: Allow people to sign up for your newsletter at your reception desk.newsletter

Speaking events: If a member of your NPO’s board of directors or management team is speaking to a group, provide a sign-in or guest book to capture the names and email addresses of interested attendees.

Ensure privacy: Include language such as “Your privacy is important to us. We will never sell or disclose the information you provide us with.” This helps you overcome a great hurdle to obtaining email addresses. People want that assurance.

Finally, ask your newsletter recipients to pass it along to their friends and families who might be interested in your organization. You’ll find many signups will occur as a result of receiving the recommendation of a trusted friend or colleague.