News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
At ONEplace we're all about the value of volunteering...helping nonprofits connect with volunteers, and vice versa. However, as we all know, one of the challenges of relying on the talent and commitment of volunteers is that they don't always have as much time as we'd like, to help nonprofit organizations turn their visions into reality.
That is precisely the issue that led to the creation of The Extraordinaries, a web-based platform for micro-volunteering that launched about a year ago. According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, a periodical we receive at ONEplace, "[t]he goal is to harness thousands of currently untapped hours by making volunteering fast, convenient, and bite-sized. While waiting for a bus or cooling your heels at the dentist's office, you could be using your smart phone to tag photos for the Smithsoinian, send a study tip to an at-risk student, or map your local parks. 'We want volunteering to be as fun and ubiquitous as playing a game,' explains Sundeep Ahuja, cofounder and president of the San Francisco-based business."
As soon as I read about The Extraordinaries, I went to the site, signed up, searched some of the more popular projects, and was soon busy tagging photographic images for the Library of Congress. And it did feel like I was playing a game, but I knew I was doing much more. I was really making a difference. I look forward to digging a little deeper into the site and searching for other projects, which are listed by categories such as climate, animals or education.
And of course, there is a social media angle to this effort as well. Participants can share their Extraordinaries activities with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and the like. This means that the brief volunteer contribution by one person could easily multiply, inspiring more to do the same. And all it takes is a few minutes. Ingenius!
The start of a new decade means it's time to prepare for another Census questionnaire. And we at ONEplace want to make sure that nonprofit organizations do everything they can to ensure that the people they serve are counted in 2010. Why? Because ten years ago, in the 2000 Census, it is estimated that Michigan was undercounted by about 70,000 people, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars in federal funding.
According to Sam Singh, census consultant for the Michigan Nonprofit Association, "Census data is used to determine political representation; where to build new roads, schools, and businesses; where services for the elderly and the homeless are necessary; and where job and job programs are needed." And when people are missed in the total count, often the services that have been created to help those very people end up suffering.
"The nonprofit community is uniquely positioned to dramatically strengthen and improve this year's census participation because you often directly serve these hard-to-count populations. Michigan's historically undercounted residents - immigrants, people of color, low-income families, and those who are highly mobile and live in complex households" are the people who, every day, walk in and out of the door of nonprofits. What better way to directly impact the funding those agencies receive than to take advantage of every opportunity to talk with services recipients about the Census, explain the benefits of a complete count, and actively promote their participation.
To help nonprofits reach their constituents, the Nonprofits Count! in Michigan campaign has an online Census Toolkit. Available in English and Spanish, the materials in this toolkit include, among other things, more details about the Census questionnaire, which is now a simple 10-question survey; as well as more information about the confidentiality of Census responses.
Please take a minute to look at these materials and make use of as many of them as possible at your site. The end result will benefit not only your organization but our entire community and the state of Michigan.
2010 Census: Nonprofits Count
At a recent New ED Network discussion centered on board composition and how to move from having ‘warm bodies’ or ‘social friends’ of current board members to purposefully composing a balanced, engaged, effective board.
First, board members must believe in the mission and work of the organization, serve the best interests of the organization and not personal agendas, and actively contribute their skills and funds to assure current and long-term sustainability. In addition, a balance of skills and demographic characteristics are essential in developing true capacity-building boards.
While different skills are needed at different stages of a nonprofit’s lifecycle (moving from hands-on in start-ups to policy making with little hands-on in maturity), the following skills need to be present on all boards.
- Financial expertise / Investment experience
- Fundraising experience
- Legal expertise: knowledge of legal issues and requirements for nonprofits
- Property and facility management and construction (depending on facilities and capital planning)
- Marketing and Communication
- Small business experience/ entrepreneurship
- Personnel / HR practices
- Nonprofit management; systems
- Governance: policy development; roles and responsibilities of board; strategic thinking
- *Program/service knowledge
Demographics should reflect the community you serve and/or want to serve. Take some time as a board and ED to determine the demographics needed to bring a balance of perspectives to the table when strategically governing the organization. Some demographic characteristics include: hands-on or policy focused; business/community leaders; racial/ethnic diversity; age, education, wealth diversity; English/foreign languages; educational levels; for-profit, nonprofit, faith-based; male/female/LGBT; community connections; personal networks. Boards should not be made up of people just because they ‘like’ each other; this is important (volunteer) governance work, not social engagement.
A grid can be made with these skills and desired balance of demographic characteristics across the top and names of current board members and their term ending dates down the side. *Program/service knowledge is helpful, especially in the early start-up stage; once established, the staff will be more important in this area than board members. Other skills may be needed depending on your particular situation.
Check all the skills and demographics each person brings to the board. Then, look for holes and recruit only people with the needed skills or demographic (hopefully contributing in both skills and demographics) profiles.
Give it a try. It’s quite revealing and powerful in helping you think strategically about recruiting new board members or replacing term-limited positions.
Finding people to fill specific positions can be challenging and will take outreach and active listening by the board members and executive director on an ongoing basis to gather names of potential recruits without ‘inviting’ them to join the board.
The process of formally recruiting is the role of the board nominating committee. Prior to the annual meeting and elections, they convene to assess the current grid and potential recruits that fit needed profiles, prioritize people to approach for each position, and develop a plan for who will do the asking of each person and in what order. The process includes sharing information about the mission and constituents, programs and services, board service requirements, and realistic expectations of time, activities, and financial contributions.
A proactive, systematic process and formal procedures for identifying, recruiting, and educating potential board members will help enlist people who will truly help advance your mission and secure the organization’s future.
A balanced, engaged, effective board.
Is your nonprofit using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to draw attention to your organization, mission, programs, and services? To reach out to your target audiences: clients, donors, volunteers, potential employees? Do you advocate for your cause using social media tools?
Or, are you still wondering what the return on investment may really be? How much staff time it will consume? If it’s the best use of your limited resources? And, what would you ‘say,’ anyway?
Case Foundation has scheduled online ‘chats with experts’ that may help. You can write in your specific questions as well as learn from questions others submit. The Ask the Guru sessions are part of their Gear up for Giving series (the schedule is located on their website).
Do you use social media in your nonprofit? If so, what and how do you put it to work for you? How do you communicate? How much time does it take to keep it active and interactive? These questions came up in a recent ONEplace Roundtable of PR and Marketing. Write back and share your experiences.
Gear Up For Giving
Two ‘must attend’ events for staff and board members responsible for nonprofit financial management and fund development will be offered during the next couple of weeks at ONEplace: Step-By-Step: Through The New 990 on Thursday, April 16, from 1 to 4 pm; and, Creating Sustainable Funding for Your Mission on Wednesday, April 22, from 2 to 4 pm. Both will be in the Van Deusen Room at KPL Central and both require preregistration.
The new 990 requires additional information aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in your financial management, relationships, and mission-focused activities and outcomes…items that will make the form more time-consuming to prepare and more helpful to donors and other funders. Come and learn what is expected with this year’s filings.
Sustainable Funding for Your Mission focuses on building a stable funding base through an individual-donor focused plan. A balance of funding sources is critical to NP stability. Too much emphasis is generally given to grants. Learn how to change that balance to individual donors for greater security over the long-term.
ONEplace Workshops & Events
The word ONE—besides being easy to remember—stands for Opportunities for Nonprofit Excellence, which is why the center exists—to foster excellence and increase mission-driven capacities in our local nonprofit organizations and across the sector.
ONEplace @ kpl is a real place—a physical center located within Kalamazoo Public Library, Central. It’s a dynamic center specifically designed to serve nonprofits, with access to computer terminals for research, a conference area for small group meetings, and staff specialized in nonprofit management and leadership. ONEplace @ kpl houses a current, expanding collection of circulating and reference materials covering subjects essential to nonprofit success.