News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
Using groups to solve problems, make decisions, and set strategy generally leads to better outcomes. However, history recounts instance after horrible instance where businesses were ruined and lives were lost due to a phenomenon known as groupthink.
Groupthink occurs when a group of people make a disastrous decision due to a desire for harmony or conformity. It’s a controversial topic, and the subject continues to get attention. More than 20 major studies on aspects of groupthink have been published since 2009.
One of the earliest and most influential researchers in this area, Irving Janis (Yale University), devised ways of preventing groupthink. In reviewing these, I found these basic threads: use a process that maximizes objectivity, ensure all available information is gathered (facts & informed opinions), evaluate all reasonable alternatives, and assess risks before committing.
Our ONEplace Leadership Series offers management processes that help on many fronts – including the prevention of groupthink. The next offering in this series (Group Decision Makingon Jan 31) addresses this particular dynamic most directly. Coming next month, we will tackle Effective Meetings. Please consider attending these workshops.
Great grant proposals begin with research. In fact, approximately 70% of the grant writing process is research. Knowing the right tools and how to use them makes this critical element efficient. So, we again present our Grant Research Tools Workshop on September 26 at 1 p.m.
During the session you will identify what you need to know about your organization and learn how to match your needs with the right funder. You will discover websites and directories with relevant information, and explore the Foundation Center Directory Online with over 100,000 foundation and corporate funders.
Bailey Mead, ONEplace Associate, leads this important class. Bailey joined ONEplace last spring. Previously, she served as Development Director at WARM Training Center (an organization dedicated to building sustainable communities in Detroit through energy efficiency and job training), Grantwriter at Area Agency on Aging 1-B, and Annual Fund Manager at THAW (The Heat and Warmth Fund). With more than 13 years of fund development and leadership experience in organizations ranging in size from grassroots to statewide, she brings a breadth and depth of nonprofit experience to assist you.
Essential nonprofit fundraising handbook
The updated (5th edition) of Guide to Proposal Writing arrived this month. It is one of the many resources available to you through our being a Cooperative Collection participant with the Foundation Center.
As a Cooperative Collection site, ONEplace@kpl offers visitors free access to the Foundation Directory Online. Updated each week, the Foundation Directory Online includes details on over 100,000 funders and more than 2.4 million recent grants. ONEplace@kpl has two computers dedicated to this service, each with written instructions to help you do effective searches of grantmakers, companies, grants, and 990’s.
Other Cooperative Collection resources at ONEplace include:
• After the Grant: The Nonprofit’s Guide to Good Stewardship
• Board Member’s Book
• Grantseeker’s Guide to Winning Proposals
• Key Facts on Social Justice Grantmaking
• Securing Your Organization’s Future
• And more
Stop by ONEplace@kpl (second floor, across from the elevators) and browse our nonprofit collection. There’s a wealth of information on leadership, management, fund development, and marketing/communications waiting for you.
Guide to Proposal Writing
Our ONEplace Nonprofit Collection has this great little book: The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, by Peter Drucker and others. It’s a quick read that makes a lasting impression. Questions two & three grabbed me: Who is our customer? and What does the customer value? Specific, well-supported answers to these questions could turn your organization around.
Nonprofits have many customers. The authors distinguished between our primary customers (the persons who lives are changed through our work) and our supporting customers (volunteers, members, partners, funders, employees, and others who must be satisfied). Our business is not to casually please everyone but to deeply please our target customers. So, the first job is to clearly define our target customers in great detail. This definition affects everything.
Next, ask What does the customer value? This may be the most important – but least often asked – question. The authors suggest beginning with your assumptions of what you believe your customers value. Next, gather customer input and then compare your assumptions with what the customers actually are saying, find the differences, and go on to assess your results. Do this for both primary and supporting customers.
It takes time and hard work, but it’s worth it. The reward comes in a greater focus on your mission, money-saving operational efficiencies, and greater value delivered to all of your customers.
Peter Drucker’s legacy of leadership development merged with the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute. Their mission is to strengthen and inspire the leadership of the social sector. Online at HesselbeinInstitute.org.
The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization
“Is Your Nonprofit’s Website Media Friendly?” An interesting blog by this name dropped into my email box this week from NonprofitPR.org. They point out the need for nonprofits to help media staff: find you; learn about you; and believe in your credibility—FAST. They are always on a deadline, so the more you can help them, the better.
Especially in our changing media environment—with newspapers morphing to online publications, local radio and television sources moving to more ‘canned’ programming—nonprofits must help the remaining journalists any way we can. Websites are the perfect way, since they are available 24/7.
Answer these questions to learn if your website is ‘media-friendly’:
- Is your website easy to find? Or, do you have an obscure name or one that is too long or clever?
- Are your designated media contacts ‘front and center,’ with direct phone/email addresses?
- Is the content on your site current—regularly updated—and ‘real’ news-worthy news?
- Do you have a section showing previous media coverage you’ve had?
- Do you have experts on your staff or board who media can trust on topics the media may be researching or seeking when ‘news hits’? Include short bios of your experts.
By helping media find you, learn about you, and reach out to you when they need to, your nonprofit will gain excellent PR and be seen as a community authority and resource far beyond the media.
The NonprofitPR.org blog is produced by Shoestring Creative Group, a source of free samples, ideas, blogs, and more. Check them out.
Is Your Nonprofit’s Website Media Friendly?
Mark Grimm recently presented an AFP webinar on the financial impacts of compelling messages. He says your communication has to show impact in less than 15 seconds! The way to do that is through simple, clear, precise language. He suggests achieving clear messages by ‘peeling the onion,’ over and over, until the focus is on core benefits to the reader (potential donor). The focus has to be on the reader, not the writer and his/her perspective from within the organization.
“You are proving to the donor you are making the change in the world the donor wants to pay for.” ~~Robbe Healy, Farr Healy Consulting
Clarity is the Issue
- Simplicity: uncluttered; no jargon
- Precise: no extra words; only what is important
- Benefits, not services/programs: what the organization really delivers to everyday people
- Prove it: select data that ‘tell the benefit story’
- Emotion and reason: use testimonials related to the top three impact areas
- Human face: connect with the reader with eye-catching visuals
By writing with clarity, (potential) donors are more easily drawn into your message, mission, and impact—and, more likely to find what they want to pay for. Once donors invest in your organization, thank them and ask why they gave a gift. Simple, yet so seldom done. Their answers will help build relationships and further clarify your next message.
The 2011 ArtServe Report on the arts and culture sector’s impact on Michigan’s economy and quality of life is an eye-opener!
It showcases the results accumulated from the Cultural Data Project, Americans for the Arts’ Creative Industries Reports, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Over 400 Michigan nonprofit arts organizations are included, many in the Kalamazoo area.
Some of the key findings (2009 data unless otherwise noted):
- Over $256 million was raised in successful capital campaigns
- 12,667,492 visits to arts and culture venues and events
- 1,841,368 school children experienced arts and culture venues and events
- $152,000,000 in salaries for 15,560 jobs
- More than $2 billion in tourism revenues (17% of all tourism dollars in 2010)
- $462,791,322 in annual direct expenditure by the creative community
- For every $1 Michigan invests in arts and culture, $51 is pumped back into the state’s economy!
- ‘From 2006 to 2010, the number of arts related jobs increased by 4% and arts related businesses increased by 43%!’
To see the complete report and more exciting information and opportunities, visit http://creativestatemi.artservemichigan.org/
2011 ArtServe Report
New Year blogs from four respected leadership authors/consultants came into my email box last week. Each addresses five items (why five?) related to leadership they recommend for action in 2012.
While these authors write primarily for business audiences, their advice is just as appropriate to nonprofit staff and volunteers.
Follow the links for their complete comments.
Dorie Clark covers her “going to stop cold turkey” list:
- Responding like a trained monkey
- Mindless traditions
- Reading annoying things
- Work that’s not worth it
- Making things more complicated than they should be
Mike Myatt shares his personal priorities for the year, and he includes a bonus item (#6).
- Family: if you are struggling with work/life balance, choose family
- White space: clearing your mind to be and act only in the present
- Listen: stop talking and listen
- Unlearn: be willing to learn and change opinions and actions
- Engage: it’s not about you, it’s about the people you serve and lead
- (Bonus) Read: few things impact your thought life more than reading
John Coleman and Bill George recommend actions for aspiring Gen X and Millennial professionals to prepare for challenges of leadership roles:
- Find a trustworthy mentor
- Form a leadership development group
- Volunteer in a civic or service organization
- Work in or travel to one new country
- Ask more questions than you answer
Leadership Tips for 2012
After attending the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s Nonprofit Day 2011, I found out that, yes nonprofits can lobby. According to the IRS, 501(c)(3) corporations are allowed to lobby as long as they follow their rules and fill out the proper forms. The IRS defines lobbying as attempting to influence legislation by contacting, or encouraging the public to contact, members of a legislative body for purposes of supporting/opposing/proposing legislation. The major rule is that nonprofits cannot spend a “substantial amount” of their budget on lobbying. For a clearer explanation of what the IRS considers to be a “substantial amount,” check out Measuring Lobbying Activity: Expenditure Test. Charity Lawyers Blog post titled, Lobbying-Yes You Can! clarifies in layman’s, terms what is and is not lobbying, as well as explaining the 501(h) election.
According to the IRS, qualifying organizations may file a special election under 501(h) of the Code, or Election/Revocation of Election by an Eligible Section 501(c)(3) Organization To Make Expenditures To Influence Legislation (501(H) Election), to allow them to spend up to a specified dollar amount for lobbying without fear of adverse tax consequence from such activities. The IRS and Michigan Nonprofit Association advise nonprofits to file the 501(h) election if they are planning on doing any lobbying, as well as tracking all expenditures. ‘Direct’ and ‘Grassroots’ lobbying must be tracked separately as they have separate expenditure limits.
IRS Resources on Lobbying and expenditure limits:
IRS Definition of Direct & Grassroots Lobbying
IRS Schedule C Political Campaign and Lobbying Activities
IRS General Instructions for Filing Schedule C for Lobbying Activity
Excessive lobbying activities over a four-year period may cause a nonprofit to lose its tax-exempt status, making all of its income for that period subject to tax.
For questions on how to use communication channels such as your website, email, and social media channels for lobbying, Alliance for Justice is offering a free downloadable copy of Influencing Public Policy In The Digital Age: The Law of Online Lobbying and Election-related Activities. The guide is intended to inform 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) organizations on how to stay within the law and encourage participation in the nation’s democratic process using technology.
Consult your attorney and the IRS Charities/Nonprofits webpage for more information on how nonprofits can lobby for their cause. Other helpful resources are the IRS eNews: Exempt Organization Update and Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest website. ONEplace will be hosting a webinar November 15 titled Lobbying Rules for Nonprofits presented by Alliance for Justice. Register online soon as we anticipate seats will go fast!
Please share your thoughts about nonprofit lobbying by commenting on my blog!
Lobbying-Yes You Can!
A new article in the Nonprofit Quarterly by Simone Joyaux (See-MUN Zha-WHY-oh) adds another element to the discussion as she asks, “Are You So Vain?” Is your organization thinking about (and acting like) fundraising is all about you, instead of being all about the donor? She offers an assessment tool to look at your practices and attitudes, and a pledge to commit to, that will help your organization lose its vanity and gain donor loyalty.
Below are the first ten of 23 pledge items. You can find the complete list on her website. PDF
The Donor-Centric Pledge
We, [fill in the name of your nonprofit organization here], believe…
- That donors are essential to the success of our mission.
- That gifts are not “cash transactions.” Donors are not merely a bunch of interchangeable, easily replaceable credit cards, checkbooks and wallets.
- That no one “owes” us a gift just because our mission is worthy.
- That any person who chooses to become our donor has enormous potential to assist the mission.
- That having a program for developing a relationship with that donor is how organizations tap that enormous potential.
- That we waste that potential when donors are not promptly thanked.
- That “lifetime value of a donor” is the best (though often overlooked) way to evaluate “return on investment” in fundraising.
- That donors are more important than donations. Those who currently make small gifts are just as interesting to us as those who currently make large gifts.
- That acquiring first-time donors is easy but keeping those donors is hard.
- That many first-time gifts are no more than “impulse purchases” or “first dates.”
I recommend having several people in your organization take the assessment to see where your organization stands. Then, take the pledge and work the pledge over the coming months to see what a difference new actions and attitudes can make in your donor/nonprofit relationships and fundraising. http://simonejoyaux.com/ss_files/downloads/DonorCentricPledge.pdf.
Simone Joyaux: The Donor-Centric Pledge