Two events highlighted effective meeting practices from two national personalities.
On June 12, several from Kalamazoo ventured to Grand Rapids to hear fundraising researcher and author Penelope Burk (Donor-Centered Leadership). During the course of her workshop, she provided her thoughts on effective meeting practices. These include:
- Meeting should be on a single topic
- Invite only those who need to be at the meeting
- Provide an agenda in advance so people can prepare
During our Effective Meetings workshop on June 17, these points were expanded upon from the writings of Patrick Lencioni (The Advantage). His Meetings Model makes an important distinction between the tactical staff meeting and a strategic topical meeting.
He warns against letting the staff meeting become “meeting stew” where everything gets thrown on to one agenda. The problem is that long-term strategic items usually get short-changed – given too little time and attention from too few people.
He advises calling a strategic topical meeting so the one or two strategic concerns can be thoroughly and thoughtfully addressed. Also, since strategic issues often cross departmental lines, calling a separate meeting allows us to make sure the right people are at the table.
In a nutshell, an effective meeting involves the right people focused on the right issues.
The annual Giving Report from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is out. Once again, it shows that individual donations and bequests make up around 80% of total giving. It also shows that…
…giving was up 4.4% overall.
Recently, Gail Perry provided an overview of this report. (I hope you’re receiving her weekly email.) In her summary, she provides key data points and offers her insights. She notes that while giving is up overall, the increase was driven by major gifts from loyal donors. Her bottom line:
“Create a donor retention task force to ‘love on’ your current donors.”
Last week I referred to Penelope Burk’s research showing the startling impact of simply having board members make thank you calls. Place this basic activity within a strategic approach to donor retention and your program will take off.
You’ll also avoid what the Giving Report suggests may be a looming storm – a net loss of 12 donors for every 100 gained or retained since the Recession. How does your retention rate compare?
Why have I written on this topic for two weeks in a row? The cost difference between renewing donors and acquiring new donors is around one dollar for every dollar given. You read that right. According to data from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), renewal efforts cost around $0.20 for every dollar given while donor acquisition costs around $1.20 for every dollar given.
It may be time to evaluate your donor retention efforts. You can’t afford not to.
Do you want to increase retention of first time donors from 20% to 70%? It’s easy.
Have a board member call the donor within 48 hours to say “thank you.” The call will take about a minute – half of the calls will go to voice mail (which is fine).
Not convinced? Last Thursday, I attended a workshop with Penelope Burk, fundraising consultant and President of Cygnus Applied Research (presented by Association of Fundraising Professionals – West Michigan Chapter). She has been researching fundraising practices and donor behavior for many years and has keen insights on what works and what doesn’t.
In a recent interview, she cited her research on first time donors who received a thank you call after their first gift:
We watched what happened with donors for two years, over six subsequent campaigns. They were never phoned again, but even by the end of the second year, the test group was still performing much higher — an average gift 42 percent higher than the control group — and they had a 70 percent retention rate from the first time they gave right through to the end of the sixth request. In contrast, the control group had an 80 percent drop-off rate [i.e., a 20% retention rate].
How much will it cost your organization’s budget to have board members make thank you calls? Zero dollars. What are the benefits? 42% increase in average gift, 250% increase in donor retention, and a more engaged board. That’s an incredibly huge ROI.
I know that some organizations already do this – Bravo! For those of you who aren’t doing this – start today.
P.S. Read the full interview with Penelope Burk from last summer (read now)
We consistently hear from you (including our recent survey results) that you value discussion and interaction with your peers. This makes sense. As we work together on new information, we challenge each other’s assumptions, uncover specific insights, and learn from one another.
A recent study supports your feedback. Last year, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy did a study for Wilberforce University on effective capacity building strategies. This exhaustive study examined literature from 2008-2013, surveyed 236 foundations, and included 20 interviews. One key result of this study was that peer learning surfaced as the most effective capacity building approach.
Over the past several months, ONEplace has been piloting peer learning groups. In addition, we’ve interviewed persons who have benefitted from other peer learning groups. Now it’s time to move this effort to its next phase.
Soon we will issue an invitation for our ONEplace Peer Learning program. Participants will be gathered in small groups. Here are some details:
- Groups will be approximately 8 persons
- Peer groups will be defined by common position held and similar level of experience
- Time commitment will be up to each group (suggestion is at least six monthly meetings)
- All groups will be facilitated by ONEplace
We look forward to this new venture, and we look forward to your participating and helping it to grow into an effective way to learn, connect, and grow in your career.
ONEplace exists to help you do your job better. So, when you talk, we listen.
Last year, you said that you wanted more interactive workshops and fewer webinars. We cut the number of webinars in half and replaced them with 60-90’ workshops/discussions, often supplementing these with ONEpage or video pre-work.
You also said you liked small group roundtables but wanted the group to be bigger and more targeted. This past year we discontinued the open roundtables and replaced them with targeted, short-term small groups. Look for our next small group invitations coming soon.
Overall, you find ONEplace to be meeting your training needs, but you wanted more time for chatting and connecting with colleagues. In response, we started the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection (LinkedIn group) and our quarterly Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection – LIVE networking event. Your participation makes these valuable tools to strengthen our nonprofit sector.
A few weeks ago, we sent our semi-annual Training Event Survey. “Thank You” to the 95 respondents who participated.
At ONEplace, we measure our impact with post-session evaluations and a bank of semi-annual surveys. In the recent Training Events survey, we measure success on these questions:
- Do you plan to return? If you find value, you’ll return for more.
- Do you recommend ONEplace to others? If you find value, you’ll recommend ONEplace to others.
- Do you see a benefit to your job, your organization, and yourself? You notice improvement.
- Do you expand your network by attending? You feel more connected to your nonprofit colleagues
Our benchmark is 85%. Here’s what you reported:
- 99% plan to attend future events at ONEplace
- 97% have recommended ONEplace to colleagues or others
- 99% agree or strongly agree that workshops benefitted their organizations
- 99% agree or strongly agree that workshops helped them do their jobs better
- 98% agree or strongly agree that workshops benefitted them personally
- 91% agree or strongly agree that workshops expanded their network
Your comments also help guide ONEplace programs and activities. Here’s a summary of your 45 separate comments.
- Twelve (27%) comments affirming current programming and approach
- Eight (18%) requested evening workshops
- Three (7%) suggested holding events at locations other than the library
- Three (7%) requesting more small group opportunities with like positions
- Two (4%) encourage more interaction & discussion time in workshops
In addition, there were several single comments sharing ideas for programs and improvements. Some we’ve already started on based upon comments gleaned from post-session evaluations. Others are still to be considered.
We know that ideas and concerns arise any time (not just at survey time), so please do not hesitate to send us your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
With warmer weather I've been outside more - doing yard work, walking around our neighborhood. I've had several "good to see you again" conversations with neighbors as we emerge from our winter confines.
It feels good to reconnect with neighbors, and it's also very informative. I learn what's going on with them, and we share information impacting all of us - in our neighborhood, city, and region. It reminds me that no one of us has the complete picture. We all benefit from sharing what we know.
That's one of the main reasons we host Kalamazoo Nonprofit Connection - Live. By connecting, sharing information, and nurturing networks, we get outside of our bubbles. Taking an hour every quarter to catch up and learn what's going on around the area can have great benefits.
This will be our fifth gathering. At each of the previous events connections have been made leading to collaborative events and projects as well as resource sharing in communications and fundraising.
Sometimes the best resource to help you resolve your problem is the nonprofit that's already dealt with that problem.
We gather this Wednesday, May 14, 4:30-6 pm at Central Library. Don't miss it!
P.S. A recent Nonprofit Quarterly featured several articles on the power of networks. Check out their lead article, A Network Way of Working.
It’s a question on most grant applications and it also gets raised from time to time in the board room. It’s not a question we avoid, but it’s one of those loaded questions – the kind that elicits a tremendous amount of discussion, varied opinions, and multiple proposed solutions. The question is this:
What’s your sustainability plan?
We know we need it, but it’s difficult to get our collective mind around it. We often get caught up in trying to figure out the future. What will the world look like in five years or ten years? How can we plan for that? There are simply too many unknowns.
But, what about today…how do you know if you’re a “sustainable organization” right now? Sustainability is not a goal to reach or something to check off the To Do List. It’s a state of being. It’s a path that you choose.
So, what does a sustainable organization look like? Here are some indicators that I’ve gleaned from several articles:
- A single, clean, up-to-date patron/donor database – the life blood of the organization. This includes up-to-date policies & protocols governing its use and procedures that ensure the data stay up-to-date.
- Fund development activity fully funds expenses, satisfies reserve needs, and reasonably projects revenue needs and strategies for meeting those needs for the next three years.
- Communications activities reach their target audience(s) with appropriate frequency so that audiences feel welcomed, involved, connected, and inspired.
- Clear program policies and procedures as well as the supervision to ensure they are followed.
- Regular measures, assessments, and evaluation of program and administrative effectiveness.
- Succession planning for key roles in the organization (staff & board) – both short-term for sudden departures and long-term for planned departures.
I’m sure the list above is not comprehensive, but it’s a good start. What else would you add as a key indicator of sustainability?
Kerri Karvetski (Company K Media) presented a webinar on advanced social media strategies that ONEplace hosted in April. She made the point that nonprofits have experimented long enough with social media. It’s now time for social media to carry its weight in fundraising campaigns…but they can’t go it alone.
Multi-channel campaigns, especially those pairing email and social media, consistently provide increased impressions and highly reinforced messaging. They allow supporters to take action in the channel of their choice (which often changes over time). Multi-channel campaigns result in stronger relationships and better donor retention.
In fact, according to Blackbaud’s Idea Lab, first year donor retention rates double with a multi-channel campaign.
- Offline only donors retain 29% of first year donors
- Online only donors retain 23% of first year donors
- Multi-channel donors retain 58% of first year donors
If you would like to see this webinar, you may do so at ONEplace. Simply call (553-7899);or email to set an appointment.
Our April NEWSletter arrives in the midst of March Madness. Those who attend to such things complete their brackets, contribute to the office pool and cheer on their team. And, while there may be several moral victories, the final result is one winner and several losers.
Sports competitions provide entertainment for most of us and build skills and character for those on the court or the fairway or the field. That spirit of competition also informs many approaches to business. However…
…competition is no way to run a nonprofit.
Successful nonprofits (as well as most successful businesses) thrive because they work cooperatively with other organizations. (BTW, this is confirmed by hundreds of studies dating from the late 1800’s through today.) They place their long-term vision and desire for impact above their own self-interest. And they increase their impact by embracing a network mind-set, giving knowledge and resources away to accomplish more than if they acted alone.
The funny thing is this: even though a network mind-set appears as generous and altruistic, it’s actually a function of enlightened self-interest. By focusing beyond your personal career and organizational success to the impact you wish to make, you increase your chances of being successful.
In their book, Forces for Good, Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant identify four tactics to implement this mind-set:
- Work to increase the resource pool for your cause more than grabbing for your share
- Share knowledge and expertise to gain more influence as a collective
- Develop leadership throughout the network
- Grow small networks into increasingly larger coalitions
Overall, it’s not about who gets the biggest grant or who gets the credit. It’s about getting that change.
In these days of big data, organizations are encouraged to embrace data-driven decision-making. “Trust the data!” becomes the grease on the wheels of success.
And yet, when provided access to the same data, different people arrive at different conclusions. Business leaders, politicians, and others will take a variety of actions based upon the same data. Why?
You cannot remove the human element.
Occasionally I stumble upon the quote, “Data is the seed…information is the crop…knowledge is the harvest.” How data becomes information and knowledge seems to make all the difference. In fact, I’ve seen self-proclaimed “data-driven organizations” intentionally take action directly counter to the data presented to and understood by them. They do this because they process the data through their purposes and priorities (and, perhaps, their politics) to arrive at meaningful information and knowledgeable action.
Big or small, data is an extremely valuable input, but it’s not the driver.
Purpose is the driver. Purpose drives it all – individuals, organizations, communities…everything.
Well-known living systems author Margaret Wheatley lays this out in her book, The Community of the Future. She observes that communities (i.e., organizations, neighborhoods, nations) driven by a common purpose support both an individual’s self-determination and their need for interpersonal relationships.
She suggests that an organization, community or any other entity achieves clarity of purpose and then lets each contribute to that purpose in his/her own way. This approach draws upon the energy created within the paradox of individual freedom and connected community, attracting people to the entity without asking them to shed their uniqueness.
While the human element may be messy at times, it brings the determination, vitality, and resilience required to develop effective, stable and sustainable entities. Plus it provides the security to reach out and collaborate with those around them.
So gather good data and give it your serious attention. But let your purpose be your driver.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day – shamrocks adorn every surface, people pinch those not wearing green and everyone claims the “luck of the Irish” for a day. It brings this question to mind:
How much do our organizations rely on luck?
I’ve heard luck invoked on several occasions: “We’re lucky we got that grant?” “Our event was riddled with bad luck.” “We’re lucky that check arrived just in time.”
Is it luck? Hmmm…. I took this opportunity to look up how luck may play a part in managing our organizations.
Finances seems driven by luck, so I looked there first. In his book, The Success Equation, Michael Mauboussin acknowledges that much of our financial future is out of our control. However, he advises us to “…focus on what you can control.” He further says, “as long as you are doing the things that are in your control as effectively as you can, you shouldn't worry so much."
In business, Jim Collins (Great by Choice) examined a phenomenon he called “Return on Luck” (ROL). He says that the ability to achieve a high ROL at pivotal moments was largely a matter of considering whether an opportunity should be allowed to disrupt an organization’s plans. Those with high ROL recognized good fortune and pounced. Those with low ROL had just as much good fortune but frittered it away. They failed for a lack of execution.
So what are we to do? Richard Wiseman (The Luck Factor) sets forth these four principles for creating good fortune in life and career.
- Maximize chance opportunities (notice and act upon these opportunities)
- Listen to your lucky hunches (engage calming practices to boost your intuitive abilities)
- Expect good fortune (expectation heightens your awareness; sharpens intuition)
- Turn bad luck into good (imagine how things could have been worse)
Perhaps it comes down to a phrase that I’ve carried with me for many years: “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Do well and keep your eyes open.
Faced with an ever-changing landscape and the annual coming and going of members, boards often scramble to keep up. Time and again, however, our research and experience show that keeping the basic responsibilities in front of the board provide the needed grounding and focus to maintain the board’s effectiveness.
What are these responsibilities? They may be described in various ways. Under the law, board members must meet certain standards of conduct in carrying out their responsibilities to the organization. These are usually described as:
- Duty of care – exercising reasonable care in making decisions as a steward of the organization
- Duty of loyalty – acting in the best interest of the organization and never using information obtained as a member for personal gain
- Duty of obedience – being faithful to the organization’s mission and acting in ways consistent with the organization’s central goals
In our recent Leadership Academy class, Larry Hermen took the Ten Basic Responsibilities of a Board and categorized them as:
- Mission – This includes establishing and evaluating mission & vision, engaging in strategic planning, overseeing programs, and helping the organization communicate effectively
- Money – This includes overseeing the organization’s finances, fundraising, and ensuring sound risk management practices
- Management – This includes managing the work of the board, member recruiting and orientation, and executive director hiring and supervision
In our recent Better Board Series, we reduced the Ten Basic Responsibilities to three foundational tasks:
- Manage relationships – This sets the foundation for fundraising, board recruitment, executive director hiring and supervision, and enhancing the organization’s public standing
- Set direction – This sets the foundation for establishing and evaluating the mission and vision, ensuring effective planning, and monitoring the effectiveness of programs and services
- Ensure integrity – This sets the foundation for proper financial oversight, protecting assets, and ensuring legal compliance
I’m sure there are many other ways to slice and dice these core responsibilities.
The sum of all of these is that they encourage the board to:
- Keep focused attention on its mission as well as the larger cause that it serves
- Work together because no one person or ad hoc group may act on behalf of the board
Keeping these basic responsibilities in front of the board goes a long way to keeping the board engaged and the organization sustainable.
Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.
This month’s insight comes from Janice Maatman, Director of Nonprofit Education Programs at WMU, who recently presented an ethics seminar to the ONEplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy. Quoting from Ethics in Nonprofit Management by Thomas Jeavons, Jan said, “Trust is the lifeblood of any organization.” She then highlighted five attributes of trust:
- Integrity – continuity between talk & walk, internal & external
- Openness – “is it OK if your 6 year-old sees you doing it?” transparency
- Accountability – you can explain your choices
- Service to a cause – focusing beyond your own organization
- Charity – generosity not out of pity but out of a sense of compassion
We all take our cue from the top. A leader’s style determines about 70% of the organization’s culture which, in turn, drives up to 30% of performance (Firms of Endearment).
Of course, I don’t need to cite research. We all know it’s true. We see it every day: at works, at home, in schools, and in the community.
With few exceptions, when ONEplace staff meets with an organization to discuss concerns and challenges, dysfunctional leadership plays a debilitating role. The flipside is also true. When we work with healthy, effective organizations, we find that vital leadership sits at the hub of their progress and success.
Most often, the crux of the leadership challenge or success rests in the partnership between the executive director and the board. Like ripples in a pond, the actions of this crucial partnership radiate to every stakeholder, often having the greatest impact on those furthest out. This commonly means that those staff and volunteers on the front lines are motivated by impeccable clarity of mission and direction or left frustrated, arguing over ambiguous pronouncements.
So, what to do? Pointing fingers (be it blaming or idolizing) either exacerbate a problem or simplify a success. For now, I ask you to consider two things:
- Please share your successes. Leave a comment, post on our LinkedIn group, send me an email or otherwise share what you’re doing that works. Supporting one another in this way builds a stronger sector for us all.
- Please do not let a problem situation fester any longer. Problems often take months to develop, and they will take focused effort over time to resolve. Let’s work together to explore your particular situation and begin to take steps to repair your system.
It comes down to this: what’s your next move?
How clear is your crystal ball? When we set forth plans of any stripe – strategic, budget, project, etc. – we are saying that this is how we plan for the organization to operate within a given timeframe. In other words, we’re predicting the future.
For the vast majority of us, our past teaches us that we cannot predict the future. We’ll get close, but things happen outside of our control that throw curveballs, plant bumps in the road, and knock us off-kilter.
The lesson is clear: we need to plan for things NOT to go as planned. We need to have back-up. So, how many of your organizations:
- Build a surplus into your annual budget (e.g., 3-5%)?
- Maintain an adequate reserve in the bank (e.g., 3-6 months of expenses)?
- Have succession plans (quick exits and planned exits) for your key positions (both staff and volunteer)?
Building and maintaining an operational reserve means that your organization faces the fact that “stuff happens.” It demonstrates your ability to stay disciplined over the long-term, and it is one of the hallmarks of a sustainable organization. Further, it provides the financial capacity to resist the urge to cling to the familiar and adapt to changing times. It gives you choices!
Operational reserve can also apply to staff time and energy. According to BoardSource’s most recent Governance Index, 22% of nonprofits cut staff and 23% froze or reduced salaries in 2012. While these numbers are lower than the 2010 report, we often find that these cuts are NOT accompanied by commensurate changes in programs and services. In other words, staff must to do more with less.
This trend finds support in two other recent studies. Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s 2014 Trends survey reports that 57% of communicators say they are asked to do more than is possible within the given time. Further, CompassPoint’s 2013 “Underdeveloped” survey reports that the average length of vacancy after a development director leaves is six months. For organizations with operating budgets of $1 million or less, the average jumps to 12 months.
Cultivating a long-term approach to financial reserves AND staff time/energy reserves is critical to success. It develops a strong organizational core that withstands annual ups and downs and develops overall quality and quantity.
This is an area that we can assist one another. What have you done to successfully build your reserves? Leave a comment or send me an email (email@example.com).
P.S. I posted a recent article on our LinkedIn group that has attracted some conversation. Check it out.
We consistently hear from you that the discussion and interactive aspects of our workshops are highly valued. This makes sense. As we work together on new information, we challenge our assumptions, develop specific insights, and learn from one another.
A recent study supports your feedback. Last year, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy did a study for Wilberforce University on effective capacity building strategies. This exhaustive study surveyed literature from 2008-2013, surveyed 236 foundations, and included 20 interviews. One key result of this study was that peer-to-peer learning (or collaborative learning) surfaced as the best capacity building approach.
Since last summer, ONEplace has been piloting peer-to-peer learning groups. In addition, we’ve learned from persons who have benefitted from other collaborative learning groups. Now it’s time to move this effort to its next phase.
On March 6 we will hold a Peer-to-Peer Learning Forum that will include a short presentation plus opportunities to discuss and contribute to the next significant steps in this process. Your voice is a vital component, because our goal, as always, is to be a catalyst for your success.
Prepare all you want, but most situations include several unscripted moments. We need the ability to think on our feet.
In reviewing articles on this topic, I found that some suggest stall tactics such as having the person repeat the question, you repeating the question, or asking a clarifying question. These may buy time, but sooner or later you must respond. So, what do you do?
Many take their cue from those who regularly improvise. Citing jazz musicians, for example, one coach encourages clients to be fully in the moment – focused and engaged. Advisors among all articles advocate staying positive, actively listening, and taking risks.
Our upcoming workshop, (Manage by Improv – Jan 23), explores how we think on our feet. Using improvisation games, our leaders (Improv Effects) demonstrate how we can enrich our communication skills and increase our confidence. It’s a unique angle on engaged interaction, plus, it’s a lot of fun.
Whether you can make the workshop or not, prepare for unscripted moments. Here’s an article to help with that.
P.S. Improv Effects is featured in the current issue of Encore.
Every month, we learn much from the participants and presenters we meet at ONEplace. In Just ONEthing… we highlight an insight gained during the past month from our nonprofit community and its partners.
This months’ insight comes from our Annual Reports People Actually Read webinar. During the webinar, Kivi Leroux Miller (Nonprofit Marketing Guide) presented the sobering fact that the vast majority of people receiving our annual reports will spend only 30-to-90 seconds with them before putting them in the recycle bin. Ouch!
This led into an excellent presentation and discussion on how to best use annual reports. Since there are no regulations or requirements governing nonprofit annual reports, they may focus on connecting with the target audience – commonly donors. Her two main guidelines: frame the report with one main thing to be remembered and keep the report short, personal, and timely.
More information may be found at Kivi’s webpage devoted to annual reports. Also, this webinar (like many that we present) may be viewed individually at the library. Simply call ONEplace to set an appointment (269-553-7910).
Many people find that having a small group of trusted colleagues contributes to the foundation of their success. These take various forms: master mind groups, personal boards of directors, content-area small groups, sector-based small groups, and more. Some last for a few months and others continue for years.
What’s clear is that having a mutually supportive network of trusted colleagues is critical to personal development. At ONEplace, we’ve just completed piloting a mindfulness small group and we’re currently facilitating two other small groups. We’re learning as we go, but we’re already seeing promising results, such as: focused, in depth exploration of real, current issues; development of personal practices that reduce stress; and deepening relationships with nonprofit colleagues.
Would you like to participate in a small group? Do you know 2, 3 or 4 others who also may be interested? Here’s how ONEplace can assist:
- Additional recruitment & scheduling of meetings
- Host meetings
- Facilitation of the group process & plan
- Any needed follow-up
At our first meetings, the group decides how frequently they’ll meet and the number of meetings involved in the initial commitment (e.g., meet monthly for six months).
Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your thoughts and interest. We’ll launch new groups in January.
I get jazzed when I'm part of a group that's getting deep in the hoo-ha on issues that matter. Last week (Nov 6), we had moments of that during our Community Alignment workshop.
During the discussion, Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh (Kalamazoo Community Foundation) offered three keen insights that brought this elusive topic into clearer view.
Community alignment is an act of our will
We choose to be aligned or not. There's no magic formula or moment when all falls into place. Alignment occurs when two or more organizations set their intentions to a common outcome and consent to common goals; when we choose to combine our power to do good and to do it well.
Community alignment is about a better way to connect us
Our work takes on greater meaning when it engages us in something bigger than ourselves or our organizations. When we choose to align around these larger goals, the connections we make are stronger and deeper. They withstand conflict and debate, and they surround us with the net of support required to pursue transformational change.
Community alignment begins by starting conversations with people we don't know
While we acknowledge the truth that "we're all in this together," we often don't recognize that "all" includes those voices not being heard. Aligning with those we know takes work. Seeking those we don't know - but need to know - requires curiosity as well as vulnerability. Let's keep asking, "Who's not at the table?" And then, offer them a chair.
We live in a dynamic community - a living system in constant flux. In such a place, community alignment is not something to be attained so much as to be pursued (like "the pursuit of happiness"). At best we'll achieve moments - moments when months of effort from many people results in lives being changed...improved...transformed. At the end of the day, that's something to celebrate!
Then, tomorrow, we do it all over again.
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 Making on 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
Several fundraising and philanthropy organizations and journals, web-based experts, and sector associations are predicting ‘tough years ahead’ for all types of fundraising. Holly Hall’s article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (June 2011) cites a Giving USA report indicating giving has fallen more since 2008 than in the past 50 years.
An article in the August 24th Chronicle cites a new report by Dunham+Company that shows two-thirds of donors surveyed plan to cut back on giving this fall—and, 10% plan to stop giving altogether!
The slow recovery and current threat of a double-dip recession, along with continued unemployment, suggest ‘it could be as long as 2016 before donations return to’ pre-recession levels.
Adding to the economic issues, the national deficit reduction talks and policy conversations may lead to additional challenges for nonprofits relying on donations to keep their doors open and serve their constituents.
What can nonprofits do? Take steps, today, to increase your skills and relationships!
The annual, year-end fundraising season is fast approaching! What can organizations do, now, to connect with their donors in more meaningful ways, and find new people to support their mission, in this environment?
- Learn all you can about your donors and why they support your organization. What is ‘in it for them’ rather than what’s in it for the organization?
- Gather stories (and photos) of real people benefitting from your programs and services to ‘show and tell’ what you do and what difference it makes.
- Attend workshops and webinars at ONEplace and elsewhere to learn all you can about fundraising, donor relations, and communication.
- Seek online resources, such as the Chronicle; blogs by fundraising experts across the country, like Tom Ahern or Donor Power; or, voices of experience on Monday Movies, Fundraising and Awareness Movies for Nonprofits; and, many more.
What can donors do? Take steps to know what your gifts do in the community/world and give** generously to those you believe in.
As donors, the choice is yours to invest in a nonprofit or not.
- Why do you support the organizations you do and not others? How and when did you start giving to them? Are you involved in any other way? How much do you really know about them?
- Have you stopped donating to some nonprofits? Why? Would you consider renewing gifts to them? Why?
- Are you sure nonprofits you want to donate to are still tax-exempt? Check the new IRS rules.
- Study online resources for donors that will help your decision making: TakeAction@GuideStar; Questions to Ask; and the Donor Bill of Rights from the Association of Fundraising Professionals
- **Invest in the nonprofits you believe in and trust, generously, with your gifts of money, time, expertise, and ambassadorship. You will help make our community and world a better place during this challenging time, and always. Thank you!
ONEplace @ KPL
Do you cringe at the idea of facing a blank page? Does the task of blogging and writing newsletter articles make you nauseous? You are not alone; there is help available to you. Here are some useful resources you can access with helpful advice from those working in the nonprofit communication field.
Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog is written specifically for nonprofit professionals and offers a wealth of knowledge on different topics pertaining to communication and fundraising.
Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog focuses mainly on writing appeal letters, websites, and social media content. Kivi also offers webinars and podcasts.
6 Tips for Writing Nonprofit Marketing Copy That Works written by Nancy E. Schwartz constructs the foundation for all nonprofit writing.
(all can be found at Kalamazoo Public Library)
Writing for a Good Cause by Joseph Barbato and Danielle S. Furlich
The Complete Guide to Writing Successful Fundraising Letters by Charlotte Rains Dixon
Storytelling for Grant Seekers by Cheryl A. Clarke
How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters by Mal Warwick
Writing for a nonprofit organization goes beyond your basic introduction, body, and conclusion. We as nonprofit professionals are challenged to create interest, meaning, and sometimes action surrounding our organizations. What inspires your writing? Do you have some words of wisdom to share that help you conquer the blank page?
Writing for a Good Cause
The IRS changed the filing requirements so that every tax-exempt organization has to file an annual 990, no matter how small their budget. They promised to drop organizations that didn’t file for three consecutive years. They notified nonprofits and the public over and over, again. They extended the deadline to get 990 filings up-to-date.
Now, the list of nonprofits that have lost tax-exempt status for failing to file has been published—and, it numbers 275,000 (about 14% of all nonprofits in this country)! In Michigan, almost 9,000 charities are on the list.
What does this mean to your organization or you, as a donor? An article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy (6/8/11) summarizes the ramifications of a nonprofit being dropped, affects on tax-deductibility of donations to dropped groups, and how to seek reinstatement. It also provides a link to the list.
Additional information is available on the IRS website for exempt organizations.
Do you know the current status of the organizations you are involved with as a staff or board member, volunteer, or donor?
IRS: 275,000 Groups Lose Tax-Exempt Status
In an interesting article in the MNA Links entitled, “Pitch Your Story by Phone,” the writers, Community Media Workshop, suggests nonprofits “pitch” or verbally tell the stories they want to see published by phoning reporters and editors. Thus, bypassing the old system of submitting a press release and crossing your fingers that it will catch someone’s attention.
The article points out that with all the media noise, “phone calls humanize and personalize your stories.” The article lists some helpful tips to make the process easier:
- Call at the right time
- Be Prepared
- Make calls in front of a computer
- Be persistent but don’t be a pest
- Offer to do more to make their job easier
- Be pleasant and upbeat, not frantic, moralistic, or nagging
To read the complete article, click on the link above or drop by ONEplace and pick up a copy of MNA Links at no charge. If you are already an MNA member, you can read the latest issue along with archived issues at the MNA Links webpage.
In addition, the Community Media Works website has an informative video on, “People to Pitch.”
People To Pitch: Burt Constable, Daily Herald from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo.
Has this tactic worked for you? If you’ve had success with phone “pitches,” how does it compare with more traditional electronic submission by website or email? If you have another method of getting your stories heard, please share your success with others and leave a comment.
Pitch Your Story by Phone
Do you solicit donations using an e-letter, email, or have a “Donate Now” button on your website or social media page? According to the IRS website, your organization is required to register with most state agencies before soliciting the state’s residents for contributions. Not all states require a solicitation license. However, those that do can often request additional information such as financial reports and other documents pertaining to fundraising activities.
Because online fundraising is rather new, individual state regulations concerning online fundraising are in a perpetual state of flux. The most up-to-date state regulations are available at the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) website. The NASCO has attempted to make the filing process easier by creating the Unified Registration Statement. The Unified Registration Statement (URS) is an alternative to filing all of the respective registration forms produced by each of the cooperating states. You can obtain a list of cooperating states and their requirements for filing by visiting The Unified Registration Statement website. The website walks you through the process of filling out the URS, lists each individual state’s requirements including where to send the registration packet for each state.
The article, New 990 Makes Nonprofit Fundraising Registration Unavoidable by Joanne Fritz has some good advice and helpful tips on how to start the process of registering.
The process of registering with different states can be time consuming, even with the URS. Some organizations choose to contract with third parties to take care of the filing. As always, if you have access to a nonprofit attorney, consult them before undertaking any on-line fundraising campaign. To find out more about on-line fundraising, visit the GuideStar article On-Line Fundraising: Some Do’s and Don’ts.
On-Line Fundraising: Some Do’s and Don’ts
A survey of 2,350 organizations was recently conducted by six leading nonprofit organizations (Foundation Center, GuideStar, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Blackbaud, the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics, and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University).
The survey indicates a slight increase in giving to nonprofits this year over last:
- 36% saw donations increase in the first nine months of 2010, compared to only 23% in the same period in 2009
- 37% saw a drop in giving; down from 51% last year
- Foundation granting remains lower or flat and cautious
- Drops were mainly the result of ‘fewer and smaller individual donations’
The survey also shows a large increase in demand for services:
- 78% increase for human service organizations
- 68% increase for nonprofits in general
Other key findings:
- In four of eight subsectors, the share of organizations reporting an increase in contributions was about the same as the share reporting a decrease: arts, education, environment/animals, and human services
- International organizations were the most likely to report an increase in contributions, reflecting donations made for disaster relief
- In three subsectors — health, public-society benefit, and religion — a larger share of the organizations reported declines than reported increases
- The larger an organization's annual expenditures, the more likely it reported an increase in charitable receipts in the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009
- Most organizations were guardedly optimistic about 2011: 47% plan budget increases; 33% expect to maintain their current level of expenditures; 20% anticipate a lower budget for 2011
“For the first time in two years, there is cause for cautious optimism about the nonprofit sector in this economy,” according to GuideStar’s Ottenhoff.
How are donations and demands comparing at your nonprofit? What do you see and hear in the greater Kalamazoo area this year compared to a year and two years ago? Let us know.
Download the entire survey results PDF.
Social networking questions and frustrations come into ONEplace often. “Should we be on Facebook?” or “Is social media really worth all the time and effort?” are a couple of the questions we hear. An April, 2010 report by NTen, Common Knowledge, and the Port titled The 2010 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report offers some insight.
The report includes benchmarks for nonprofits to learn how others in the sector are using commercial social network tools such as Facebook or Twitter, or house social networks, and the value they attach to each. Some of the percentages may surprise you.
- 90% Answered yes to having a commercial social network
- 92% Said the purpose of their commercial social network community is marketing
- 60% Have not used commercial social networks to fundraise
Facebook and Twitter are the preferred social network sites, each witnessing large growth in users and community sizes (Facebook 16%, Twitter 38%). Linked In and You Tube have remained steady. My Space is declining in users and community sizes. (45%)
- 40% Received donations from Facebook
- 78% Of these organizations raised $1,000 or less in the last 12 months
- Only 3.5% of the 40% fell into the successful fundraiser category by raising $10,000 or more in the last 12 months
Due to the economy and the large upfront investment for software and build-out required to start a house network, nonprofits are taking a serious look at ROI concerning for this form of social networking.
- 22% Reported operating one or more house networks in 2010 (28% decrease from 2009)
- 75% Valued their house networks
- 74% Reported that they are very or somewhat satisfied with their investment
- 57% Used their house social network primarily for marketing
Although many nonprofits see social media as a free way to market their organizations, is it really ‘free.’ Time is money and quality takes time.
- Nonprofits that committed two or more full-time employees to the management of their commercial social networking communities experienced the highest level of satisfaction.
- 50% Indicated they will increase staffing related to commercial social networks in the coming 12 months
- 67% Allocated less than half of a full-time employee’s time to commercial social networks
- 57% Allocated less than half of a full-time employee’s time to house social networks
For more information on this report, visit Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, Allison Fine’s Blog, or The Networked Nonprofit by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter.
Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report
Does advertising and marketing your nonprofit seem too daunting a task? We have a book for that! The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula by Tom Feltenstein gives a common sense view on how to incorporate marketing tactics at the community level. The book is written for a For-Profit audience but is easily relatable for Non-Profit organizations. Tom Feltenstein walks the reader through:
- • The marketing process beginning with actionable research strategies
- • How to use different media vehicles
- • Resources you can use along the way.
You will also take some side trips and learn about legal pitfalls and ways to track your progress. Companies like Habitat for Humanity have used The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula with great success. This book, with its humor and relatable stories, is an easy read for those not intimately familiar with marketing terminology. In my opinion, this book’s main value lies in the easy, common sense ideas it suggests that, when put together, add up to a well rounded community marketing plan.
The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula: a shortcut to extraordinary profits using neighborhood marketing
At the meeting of the Kalamazoo Public Library Board of Trustees on July 26, I presented a summary of the results received through our ONEplace ONEyear Survey, conducted in early March, 2010. It is a snapshot of the start-up and growth of Kalamazoo County’s new nonprofit management support organization (MSO) from the Grand Opening in March, 2009, through one full year in operation. While we continue to grow and improve programs and services, and increase service contacts, capturing the impact of the first year has proven valuable and informative.
Executive Summary of ONEplace ONEyear Survey
ONEplace is a management support organization, operated by the Kalamazoo Public Library and funded by the Irving S. Gilmore and Kalamazoo Community Foundations, that focuses on building personnel (staff and volunteers) skills and organizational capacities of nonprofits in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
First Year Activity Levels
In its first year of operation, ONEplace was operated by one full-time and two 10/hr/wk staff (approx 9 mos/each pt position). Over 200 requests per month (2400/yr) for technical assistance from nonprofit staff, board members, volunteers, or people seeking to start a nonprofit were addressed in-person, by phone, or email---surpassing its goal of 75/mo during the first year. Over 100 workshops and webinars were provided, with more than 1,400 people attending. Services and programs far outpaced original expectations.
As the first anniversary approached we took the opportunity to systematically gather data to better assess ONEplace’s efforts and local nonprofit needs for future planning.
Working with an evaluator from the WMU Evaluations Center, the ONEplace ONEyear Survey was sent to 1,100 people to gather feedback on the services ONEplace offers. In total, 229 people completed the short survey, for a response rate of 20.8 percent. Most respondents were from organizations more than 16 years old. They represented a wide range of roles, with the most common respondents holding paid staff positions.
Most Frequently Used Services: ONEplace’s website, workshops, and one-on-one, in-person technical assistance.
Least Frequently Used Services: webinars and ONEplace’s nonprofit collection.
Overall Rating: Satisfaction with ONEplace’s services, programs, resources, and staff was very high; the value to the community was repeatedly cited in question responses and comments.
Regardless of respondent’s personal participation in ONEplace offerings, their faith in its role in Kalamazoo was strong. Many of the comments read similarly to this one: “Really, I cannot think of anything [to improve]. This is such a wonderful resource for our community. I hope there is a plan to duplicate the model and spread it across the country. ONEplace is a true ally of the nonprofit. Thank you!”
Suggestions for the Future:
- Provide a more complete schedule further ahead of time for adequate planning
- Archive materials from webinars and workshops for digital access
- Respondents asked for specific additional training topics
- Advanced training for mature organizations
- Professional development or orientation for board members
- Offer services outside of normal business hours
The results mirrored the perceptions of ONEplace staff from feedback throughout the year. Even prior to this survey, advanced training, board development, enhanced calendar, and greater focus on the collection were folded into the plans for year two. Archiving presenter materials is currently done in hardcopy and under consideration for web access. Some possible actions, such as expanding service hours, are unlikely given the limited staffing of ONEplace. Thus, the focus will be on utilizing technology to more efficiently address client needs for access to information whenever they need it.
Summary of Statistics:
- Respondents included: paid staff (60.7%); volunteers (10.5%); board members (17%); consultants (8.3%); unaffiliated community members (3.5%)
- Organizational age: less than a year (2.6%); 1-5 yrs (17.5%); 6-10 yrs (11.8%); 11-15 yrs (6.1%); more than 16 yrs (58.5%)
- One-on-one assistance (in person): 1-5 times (35.7%); 6 or more (1%); never (63.3%)
- One-on-one assistance (phone/email): 1-5 times (33.2%); 6 or more (2.9%); never (61.1%)
- Role-specific network attendance: 1-5 times (27.3%); 6 or more (6.2%); never (63.6%)
- Workshop attendance: 1-5 times (66.2%); 6 or more (10.3%); never (23.5%)
- Webinar attendance: 1-5 (32.2%); never (64.4%)
- Website visits: 1-5 times (48.8%); 6 or more (40.8%); never (10.3%)
- Frequency of checking out a book from the collection: 1- 10 times (30%); never (66.7%)
- Referred colleagues to ONEplace: 1-5 (51.2%); 6 or more (27.4%); none (19.1%)
- Increase in professional skills because of participation in ONEplace programs/services: on a scale of 1-10 (10 high) 70% rated their skill increase at 5 or greater; 2 or greater (84.5%); none (15.5% [may not have participated])
- Increase in organizational capacity: on a scale of 1-10 (10 high) 57.5% rated their capacity increase at 5 or greater; 2 or greater (78%); none (22% [may not have participated])
A Few Comments and Specific Requests to the Question “What One Thing Would Make ONEplace More Useful to You?:
- I can’t think of a thing to change
- I just need to find time to pursue your many resources
- Don’t forget ‘all volunteer’ organizations
- More varied workshop times
- Archive workshop materials online
- Send out regular emails of upcoming events
- I think it’s fantastic and moving in the right direction. It has been very useful.
- Do MORE of what you are doing!
- Offer more grant seeking labs
- Start a blog
- More in-depth workshops; skill building tools
- Education about how to network with other organizations
If you have questions or comments about this information or ONEplace, in general, please contact us.
Bobbe A. Luce, director of ONEplace@kpl
ONEplace @ KPL