Posts Tagged ‘Nonprofit Management’

$14 Million in Funds to Engage More Older Volunteers

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

background check, volunteer screeningThis summer, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced a competition that will provide nonprofit organizations the opportunity to bring on more volunteers who are age 55 and older. The deadline for letters of intent to reply (which can be a simple email) is August 9, and the deadline for applications is September 10.

The agency will award more than $14 million to local organizations that sponsor RSVP programs, and is expected to bring in more than 92,000 volunteers in six areas:

  • Disaster services
  • Economic opportunity
  • Education
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Health futures
  • Veterans and military families

RSVP was established in 1971. It is now one of the largest senior volunteer programs in the nation, offering a variety of activities that benefit both volunteers and the communities in which they live and work.

The competition will focus on measuring performance, and increasing and demonstrating the impact of national service in 270 specific communities, by funding grants that support volunteers 55 and older. The communities are in 45 states, and eligible organizations include public and nonprofit agencies, city and country governments, higher education institutions, Indian tribes and faith-based organizations. Learn more here.

According to the CEO of CNCS, Wendy Spencer, the focus on senior volunteers reflects the fact that “Baby boomers and other older adults are an excellent resource for local nonprofits, faith-based institutions, public agencies and others.”

Why not check to see if your community is on the list, and apply to participate in the competition? You might just increase your volunteer base, and your impact!

Recognize Gender Differences in How Volunteers Work

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

screening volunteers, volunteer background check

As much as we’d like to think there are no differences between the genders in the workplace—or in volunteer positions—the truth is that there are. Understanding the fundamental differences can help any organization run more smoothly, and with less tension and stress.

Some of the ways men and women view the workplace differently follow. Of course, these aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but general observations.

Men and women communicate differently: This will come as a surprise to practically no one. Men are more competitive and are more likely to interrupt one another. Women are more likely to weigh in after others have already expressed their opinions. Women also don’t raise their hands to speak as much, so they’ll often need to be asked their opinions. Both styles are valuable, with women viewing problems more broadly, and men being more narrow in their focus.

Women work more toward consensus: Women are more apt to exchange information, ask for consensus, and bounce ideas off of a larger group in order to create a broader agreement. Women prefer to gather feedback and are more likely to show concern that others are included in decision making. This interest in others can gain them more trust and create a more productive work environment. Men, on the other hand, want a quick decision, and more often come to them on their own.

Work-life balance: This is where misunderstanding can cause issues. Women are more accepting of the diverse needs of volunteers and workers, while men are more comfortable with doing things the way they’ve always been done. Traditional management styles and organizational cultures tend to favor the way men prefer to work. Women in positions of leadership are more likely to notice people’s needs.

It’s difficult for women and minorities to advance in places where an “old boys’ club” exists, but happily, that’s more the norm in corporate America than in non-profit America.

Be an Extraordinary Volunteer Manager

Friday, March 15th, 2013

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkIf you’ve ever worked under a great leader, you can probably think of traits that made him or her seem completely unique. Realistically, great leaders often share a few common traits. And these traits are often simply good habits they’ve developed over the years.

With effort, any good leader can become extraordinary. Whether you’re managing paid employees or volunteers, the following traits of great leaders are worth emulating.

  • Community: Great leaders want everyone to be included. They focus on the needs of the whole, rather than the few—and certainly not their own needs. When your volunteers feel more included, they want to help more.
  • Coaching: Extraordinary leaders are great coaches. They naturally mentor those under them, are great listeners and offer sound advice. They don’t micromanage, however—they know it’s important to allow employees to make decisions and mistakes, and learn from them.
  • Openness: Great leaders are open to new ideas. They love finding new ways to tackle old problems, have open-door policies and enjoy hearing what everyone has to say.
  • Humility: Great leaders often have great senses of humor, and can laugh at themselves. Volunteers, who are working for free, appreciated such humility. A light-hearted atmosphere builds camaraderie and makes people more willing to work hard.
  • Vision: Extraordinary managers have the ability to help others visualize the future—and follow them to it. In addition, they create a shared vision for everyone, not just themselves.
  • Trust: The best managers instill trust in those they lead. What’s more, they inspire others to be trustworthy. In a nonprofit organization, trust is essential to avoiding politics, games and other productivity-killing silliness.
  • Truth: Even when the truth is unpleasant, great leaders tell it anyway. They know that avoiding or hiding the truth does nothing to avert a bad situation. Treating volunteers like adults who can handle the truth will instill loyalty—and may result in some creative solutions to the problem.

When extraordinary leaders are present, volunteers are typically happier and more productive. They are inspired to work with the group toward common goals, and are more likely to stick around longer, too. Try working on these traits, or habits, and become an extraordinary volunteer leader!

Performance Reviews for Volunteers and Employees

Friday, December 21st, 2012

screening volunteers, volunteer background checkAre performance reviews effective? Many non profits conduct them with staffers, but not volunteers. But most people can benefit from a periodic review of their work. Performance reviews can even inspire people to improve on the job.

But performance reviews can be tough, especially if a) your subject is not getting paid, but is volunteering their time; b) you’re supervising those who do menial tasks; or c) you have long-term employees who know their jobs and perform them satisfactorily.

Maybe it’s time for a new approach. Instead of supervisor/subordinate, look at collaborations, commitments and accountabilities. Try starting from the beginning. Gather all employees and volunteers together and have the leadership team take them through the organization’s mission, vision and goals. Tell stories of how the nonprofit changes lives, impacts the community and makes the world a better place. And let the team know what you need from them to achieve success.

  • Then let the team know how they are doing overall—not individually. Review the deliverables that must occur for the organization to thrive, from bringing in donations to providing quality services. Teach them how they can improve.
  • Set measurable goals together. Encourage feedback and team-led initiatives to establish steps to meet the goals. Support the teams with time to get together and hold meetings and brainstorming sessions.
  • Ask for commitment from all staffers and volunteers. Each person can make promises about what they will do to contribute. As a manager, your role is to follow up, offer encouragement, solve problems, and offer tools to help them achieve success.

How Nonprofits Are Coping With Increasing Demands For Services

Friday, March 11th, 2011

volunteer screeningA study we wrote about a couple of weeks back indicated that nonprofit revenues were up in 2010. It’s no surprise that demand for services is on the increase, as well.

Bridgespan Group conducted a survey of nonprofit leaders and found that a whopping 84 percent of respondents say they are experiencing increased demand for their services. The 2009 survey indicated 58 percent increase and 2008 reported a seemingly-small 30 percent figure.

The percentage of nonprofits reporting increase demand for services in 2010:

  • Health Services 100%
  • Multi-Service Providers 95%
  • Education and Youth Services 88%
  • Other 81%
  • Housing and Elderly Services 80%
  • Job Training 80%
  • Arts and Culture 25%

It makes sense that economic hardship would force formerly financially-stable individuals and families to seek help. As state budgets are slashed, services for the poor and struggling are closing down across the nation, often leading assistance-seekers to private, nonprofit service providers. Family service organizations see many more families struggling to survive. Job training programs are at or over capacity due to unrelenting unemployment and food pantries are seeing longer lines than ever.

How are nonprofits taking care of their clientele with fewer resources? The survey and follow-up interviews reveal some interesting insights:

  • Collaborating with other organizations 61%
  • Created a communications plan 36%
  • Enacted a contingency plan 23%

Nonprofits must continue to be diligent in watching economic forecasts, communicating with supporters and creating new management strategies as demands for their services will continue to increase.

How Does your Non Profit Website Rank on Google?

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

How quickly are web searchers finding your Non Profit Organization (NPO)? What terms are they searching under? How does Google rank websites, anyway?

Every one has experienced the frustration of typing in a few key words and not finding the site we were hoping to find. Or, of typing in key words for our own organizations and seeing everyone’s site but ours on Google’s results page.

Google’s algorithms rank websites using all kinds of information; and while there are no magic bullets that will rocket your non profit organization’s site to the top of the rankings, there are easy ways to make it easier for Google’s spiders to find it (spiders are little robots sent out 24/7 to see what’s happening on the web and report back to Google).

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a way of modifying your site to make it more spider-friendly. There are thousands of theories and myths around SEO. There are also a bunch of generally-accepted principles that actually work.

Keywords are extremely important. Keywords are the phrases or single terms that searchers use to find a site. They can be broad or targeted; for example, “women’s services” is broad, while “domestic violence help for women” is more targeted. Type in a typical search for your organization and see how you rank. Add your region, city, or state to further narrow the search to your organization.

Keywords that your targeted audience will likely use to find your organization’s website should be included:

  • In title, keyword, and description tags your web developer can add;
  • In headlines and body copy throughout the site.

Content should be updated regularly. A good way to achieve this is to have a Content Management System (CMS) site. Most new websites are built on this type of platform, which allows site owners or administrators to make simple site changes, based on a template. No more asking your web designer or developer to make all of your changes!

Another way to achieve the goal of fresh content is to incorporate a news page and/or blog into your site. News, photos, and videos of events and other important matters will keep visitors interested and returning to your site. Updated content will also help your Google rankings.

Ask for backlinks, which are links on other sites to yours. The best backlinks include your keywords. For example, a partner agency, like United Way, might include a link to a “domestic violence prevention organization” using that phrase as the link text, rather than the name of the organization. All backlinks are helpful to website rankings, but this type of text link from a respected organization is extremely valuable. So, ask everyone you can to link to your site!

These are just a few easy ways you can help your non profit organization’s website improve its Google rankings. Try them, give the spiders a week or two to find the changes, and see how it ranks. Keep implementing the changes and you should see improvement!

Why Background Screening for Volunteers?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

While awaiting the economic recovery, many non profit organizations (NPOs) have cut expenses as closely as possible. One area that should not see a budget reduction is background screening of volunteers.

Why is it important for Volunteer Managers to continue screening volunteers?

1. It’s the first defense against fraud. Embezzlement and theft are concerns in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. In hard times, fraud actually increases, so there is no better time than the present to protect your organization from potential losses. Charities nationwide are losing cash and property to unscrupulous volunteers. Don’t let yours be one of them!

2. Appearances are deceiving. Note we didn’t say “appearances can be deceiving;” that’s because they just are. You simply cannot judge a person’s honesty or character based on their level of cleanliness, their jewelry, or the brand of shoes they wear. Gambling addicts sometimes look like your grandmother—and some of them steal money to fuel their habit. Even folks who have never considered stealing fall prey to need—and if that person has access to your NPO’s finances, it’s potentially at risk.

3. As the person in charge of volunteers, you are liable for their actions. Do you want to be safe, or sorry? If the charity you’ve given so much of your time to suffered a financial loss due to theft, fraud, or litigation, how would you feel—especially knowing that a simple and quick background check could help you screen out potential problem volunteers? Don’t take chances—you’ll sleep better at night!

4. What’s more important than keeping volunteers, staff, and clients safe? Most organizations serving vulnerable populations, like the elderly, disabled, and children, routinely screen volunteers for criminal history and sex offender status. But sadly, not every volunteer organization takes this important step. We’ve all heard the stories about volunteers who harm kids or the elderly who should not have been anywhere near them!

There is really no reason not to screen every volunteer applicant. No matter what financial shape your NPO is in, volunteer screening is one area that you really can’t afford to cut the budget!

Background credit screening of volunteers is quick and inexpensive. And the peace of mind it offers is really priceless. Protect your organization, your staff, volunteers, and clients with thorough background screening.

Corporate Giving: Are the Purse Strings Loosening?

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A recent survey of U.S. companies showed that planning for community involvement, including contributions, has “moved out of crisis mode and into a recovery mindset.” In other words, drastic budget cuts in charitable giving have slowed among these companies, and they are again thinking about helping their communities.

What does this mean for non profit organization (NPO) executives and volunteer boards? Perhaps some breathing room. If your NPO made it through 2009 intact, you may see increased corporate support in the rest of 2010.

Still, according to the report, 20% of the 114 companies surveyed in December 2009 and January 2010 are planning on reducing their budgets for charitable giving. But that’s a significant drop from 53% in the same survey taken in 2008-2009.

The good news on the volunteer side is that most of the surveyed companies plan to increase the resources devoted to volunteer programs. Event sponsorship, however, will continue to take a hit. Corporations will want to help with personnel hours instead of dollars. Continue developing relationships with corporate leaders and let them know how their employees can help your organization.

Capital campaigns and arts and culture organizations will continue to be hard hit, since more companies plan to focus resources on education and environmental causes.

But the positive news is that the companies surveyed overwhelmingly say they are less likely to reduce their contributions-related administrative budgets (down from 34% last year), and less likely to cut grant size (8% this year, 21% last year). Another bright spot: only 11% of surveyed companies plan to make fewer grants in 2010, compared to nearly 34% in 2009.

So, while non profits will continue to work hard for contributions, there could be pleasant surprises along the way in 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.