Sunday, January 25, 2009

Raise Some Quick Donations More Often, Right Now, and Again Later This Year, And Next...

In this difficult economy, your organization is likely struggling to provide its mission's work. The programs, services, items, research, or other product that it exists to offer the community is likely under some jeopardy because the economy has slowed and while donors are still giving, they're mostly giving in lesser amounts, if at all.

Your organization may mostly offer memberships and special events to raise money. If your nonprofit has not focused much on donors, or if your organization does not have a dedicated donor base that regularly gives donations to your group and are people who are regularly asked for contributions you are missing a real cash flow stabilizer. All fundraisers are critical, today. No successful fundraising method should be thrown out the door, at all. If, though, your organization has not taken advantage of also raising donors who are individuals, families, and small or local businesses that live and operate in the geographic region(s) that your nonprofit serves - you want to begin raising money from these folks. In the United States, approximately 80% of all donations raised by 501(c)(3) nonprofits are from individual donors (including families and small businesses). In other words - you may think 'Dave Smith is only going to give $20 every six months or so - why should I try to raise money from him, each year?'. The reason is several Dave or Denise Smiths who give $20 over and over again inject your organization's bank account with regular cash. The more donors your organization raises and retains, the more regular and steady ongoing cash flow it will have. Different donors want to give towards different types of fundraising methods or give to specific programs that your organization conducts over others - and that's fine. Getting organized: knowing how you will track donors' names and contact information, knowing how you will track which fundraising method they respond to and the donations' details will be critical. If you know how each donor reacts, or rather, what they prefer you've begun the process (and more importantly, have the information, per donor) to develop them or keep them happy with giving to your agency. How do you find out how to reach these individual donors?

A nonprofit must always listen to, remain open to, and work with the people and entities that support it. If your organization has clearly indicated to the community that it serves, what it does, why its work (mission) is critical and necessary now, and given the community different ways to support it and its work - the nonprofit should be raising new donors who will give again, as it retains donors who have given before, gave again recently, and will give again later. The only way that a nonprofit will raise new donors and retain its old donors is by being honest, clearly sharing its successes, communicating its future goals, and by being a professional and transparent operation. Donors are not 'lucky to give to your organization' or 'lower than' others who are volunteering or working for the nonprofit. They are vital, invaluable, partners in your organization's work and its mission, a part of the community, and must be seen as partners or investors. They must be cared for.

I am not saying that donors or any one or few donors 'own' the nonprofit or have 'special rights' to anything that the organization does or how it operates (except, for instance, if naming rights were acquired through a large donation per a campaign that your organization was holding, etc.). Donors are not in charge of policy setting, fiscal oversight, or choosing the nonprofit's direction. Those jobs are specific tasks that the board of directors is tasked with, legally. Donors are not in charge of operating the organization's day to day work or overseeing programs, program design, fundraising, and achievements in programs, services, and fundraising. These tasks and achievements are traditionally mostly the executive director's responsibility (and the board bears some fundraising achievement responsibilities, too). Donors are also not responsible for the specific different operations and tasks that a nonprofit must finish well and succeed at, for the day to day work to get done that makes the entire organization's operations, in sum total, occur. These responsibilities are the administrative volunteers', programs volunteers', and the staff's (if your nonprofit has staff).

The following Seeking Grant Money Today posts, diverge from grant writing, specifically (which also requires attention to donors) to address the importance of individual donors (because of our economic difficulties, today). These will help you understand more:

Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds


How To Increase The Number of New Donors


Your Nonprofit Needs Cash Flow. That Means Your Nonprofit Needs Your Individual Donors. Take Care of Each One

You Too Can Raise Major Donations. Here's How...

What Motivates Giving?

Grants for U.S. and Puerto Rican Nonprofits Providing Free After School Literacy and Education Programs

[Please help us. We at The Grant Plant, LLC want to understand what nonprofits need from the services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

From The Foundation Center...

Women Helping Others Foundation Invites Applications for
Education/Literacy Grants

Deadline: March 17, 2009

The WHO Foundation: Women Helping Others
( http://www.whofoundation.org/ ) supports grassroots charities
serving the overlooked needs of women and children in the United
States.

WHO Foundation Education/Literacy grants provide funding to
501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in the United States and
Puerto Rico to support free after school organizations and for
the implementation or expansion of education and/or literacy
programs for low-income children of all ages.

In order to qualify for funding, an organization must have
501(c)(3) status in their name (no affiliates accepted) and
must have been incorporated for a minimum of three years prior
to application. Preference will be given to organizations with
an operating budget of $3 million or less, those not dependent
on government grants, and those with greater organizational pro-
gram costs than personnel costs.

The maximum request amount per organization is $5,000. Suggested
funding requests include healthy snacks, books, educational field
trips, etc. The foundation does not provide funding for salaries.

Visit the WHO Foundation Web site for complete program informa-
tion.

RFP Link:
http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016575/whofdn


Sunday, January 18, 2009

How Nonprofits Will Save More and Raise More: Or, How To Conduct Donor and Donations Analysis

I am going to walk you through the donor analysis process and math that I recommended all nonprofits conduct, in my previous post, Save Your Nonprofit Money, Raise More Money, and Succeed - Yes, Now. Donation and donor analysis enables anyone who conducts it to know their organization better (where it is today and also where it could or even should go), and it takes a relatively small amount of time. Specifically, analysis will help you understand your donors (as a unit or drilling down to individuals, families, or local business donors and comparing their giving to the majority of donors), and to understand how effective, successful, and efficient the nonprofit's various fundraising methods are.

You'll recognize the evaluation math from your earliest algebra classes, so don't be intimidated if you are a math-a-phobe (you're good nonprofit people, too)!

The goal, when analyzing donor and donation data, is to discover the donors' giving patterns (e.g. which fundraising methods they are really responding to and which they are not), and also the return on investment (or cost/benefit ratio) of any fundraising method your organization is using. The reason that I am giving this advice right now is anything that you can do to help your organization optimize its fundraising effectiveness, increase its operations efficiency, and lessen costs is going to be very powerful.

The following is written so that even the smallest newest nonprofits can conduct this analysis. The following, therefore, does not assume that your organization has a donor or donations database. If you do, definitely use its query feature to gather the data, etc. Just replace the following manual steps with any and all of your databases' capabilities or features that it, itself, can do.

Here are the steps to conduct donor and donations analysis:

__ List on a piece of paper all of the fundraising methods that your organization is currently using in a single year (let's just use January - December for this step - or, if your organization's fiscal year is different from this use it). Include every mode that the nonprofit has and uses to raise any money at all in a single year. Don't include any fundraising methods that you're about to start as you don't have any results (data) for them, yet. Include everything from any special events you hold, to the remittance envelopes in your newsletter, to bequests, to memorials, to candy sales, etc.

__ Select an amount of recent time that you wish to analyze. I suggest that you choose to select data from at least the previous recent year (either the calendar or your organization's fiscal year). You may select more time than a year ago from now, but remember that the further back in time you go, the less recent the information or the lesser current the results will be after your analysis is complete. Do not select anything smaller than six months (unless your organization is younger than six months old). I recommend that you do not select anything further back than three years. Keep in mind, too, when you conduct analysis that any recent changes in the public's spending, changes to a local or national economy, etc. will skew the data if the change in spending is no longer current. If a change in spending habits is still current (which it is as of the writing of this post) then using the most recent data, possible, but allowing for the greatest amount of time analyzed will provide a fair spectrum of donation receipts and peoples' donating habits. Don't limit too much and don't expand the data analyzed too much either.

__ Pull together some critical records. In order for your analysis to provide you with real information, you will need to gather the records for all donations received in the time you're analyzing. If you are only analyzing your individual donors' data (e.g. individuals, families, or local businesses' donations) then only gather these donation receipts records or data for the entire time period. (You probably don't need to include, for instance, foundations' data in with your individual donors' data since you raise money from the two different types of donors very differently). You will need for EACH donation: the donor's name(s), what campaign or fundraising method they gave to; the amount donated; when the donation was received (or processed); whether they received a thank you of some kind or not; and any requests, comments or suggestions that they may have sent over the selected time period. Be certain that all receipts received for the time period specified are available to you during your analysis. For some donors, you will have multiple donations in a single year (e.g. maybe Mrs. Jones gave to both your golf tournament and sent a donation in a remittance envelope from your organization's June 2008 newsletter). Keep each donation separate from each other, but feel free to organize donations according to who the donor was (or however it is easiest for you to locate data, quickly).

__ If your bookkeeper has handy for you the totals for each fundraising method for the period of time that you selected, get that data from her or him.

__ Also, if any of the program managers have the total number of attendees to all programs, or if your development manager has the total number of donors for the events or other fundraising methods, for the time period, get those data.

__ Analyze the donors' giving patterns (e.g. which events raised the most money, which events received the most responses or interest (number of donations raised), what individuals or specific families tend to like to give to more, is giving in general up or down, is giving for a new event going up from year to year, etc.).

a.) To know which events raised the most money, tally the total dollars raised for the time period, per each individual fundraising method that you listed in the first step, and then look at which made more. Which made the least?

b.) To know which events received the most interest from your constituents (or which raised the most number of donations (which is not necessarily the most money raised by an event)), tally up the number of donations for each event you listed, for the time period selected. You may see that the event that raised the most money was not the one that brought in the most number of donations.

c.) To determine what each specific donor gives to which fundraising method (which will tell you what that person, family, or local business connects with when you raise money, annually - and will tell you what they enjoy over the other modes of giving that your agency offers) select the individual or family or business that you want to know details about. Look over all of the donations that they gave for the time period that you selected noting what fundraising mode they contributed through (special event, remittance envelope, etc.) Now, go back a year (or an equal amount of time that you selected) in the past. Look at which modes of fundraising they gave through in the recent past. If you begin to see that they give to the one or two same events or fundraising method each year - you know something more about that donor (which can be powerful knowledge for your organization's fundraisers - you know what Mrs. and Mr. Jones prefers - reach them through it!)

d.) To know if giving is up or down, look at the total amount raised for all fundraising methods two years ago; and compare that number to the total amount raised for all fundraisers last year. If you wish to derive a pattern from the giving history, look at the totals raised over the past five years.

e.) To conduct return on investment or cost/benefit analysis - compare the cost or expenses in putting on any one of your fundraising methods to the amount it raised. Total these (expenses and earnings) for each event for at least two years. Is the amount being spent to put the event on staying relatively the same while the amount your earning from the event going up? That's a good sign - and what you want. If the amount being raised from year to year is going down and expenses to put it on are going up - seriously consider with your board and development committee whether it is worth continuing (as it is costing more money and raising less). Use the analysis findings you've discovered and replace the failing fundraisers with a new (another) fundraiser similar to what most of your donors are giving to, or what they are responding best to.

Use the findings to understand where your donors' heads, hearts, and interests are. Take that seriously and 'listen' to them. Also, pay close attention (by conducting this analysis every year) to changes or nuances in patterns or interests. You can also network with colleagues at other nonprofits in your region and ask if they're seeing the same behaviors (e.g. more interest in golf tournaments than selling cookies). If you discover that this is typical of the people who give to organizations in your region - you've gained insight about not just your donors but most local donors in the region including the donors you have yet to raise and retain).

__ Analyze the donations.

a.) To determine the average amount raised for each fundraising method, total the dollars raised for each fundraising method that occurred during the time period you selected. Now determine, for each fundraising method how many donations were received. You'll have probably already figured out these totals for each fundraiser from above. For each fundraising method divide the total amount raised by the number of donations received and this will give you the average amount donated, per fundraiser. Look at all fundraisers in a year and determine which garners the larger average donation. Now compare the averages year to year. What is the trend in average donation amount given, per fundraising method?

b.) To determine who your organization's major donors are (or which donors tend to give in higher amounts regularly and could, therefore, be developed into your agency's major donors) look at which individual, family, or local business has given regularly to your organization over time. Of these individual donors, which are giving in larger amounts than the average amount raised for each fundraising method that they gave to? If, over time, you can see that for instance Mr. and Mrs. Jones are giving $100 to three fundraising methods in a year; compared to most people giving $50, $25, and $30 to the same three fundraising methods - Mr. and Mrs. Jones are likely candidates for your executive director and board to develop into your nonprofit's major donors. See the links in the first sentence of this paragraph to learn how to do this and why it's an important method of fundraising for any nonprofit.

These are just a few of many different ways to analyze what your agency's public or its constituents (the people who are supporting it) think, prefer, like, care about, and are, in effect, voting for with their dollars and the total amount they give at one time or combined over a year. Through donor and donation analysis you are going to be able to learn about your donors, your fundraising methods, where your nonprofit can save money, or make more money. More to the point, your nonprofit can stay nimble and make cost cutting or donation increasing decisions quicker if you continue to do the analysis and regularly. More to the point, still, if you wish to increase the amount raised on average for any one fundraising method, or increase the amount raised from a single donor - you now have powerful information. For instance, it makes more sense for your agency to spend money developing Mr. and Mrs. Jones into major donors because they have demonstrated that they not only wish to give to your group in larger increments, but have the ability (wealth) to do so. Investing your nonprofit's fundraising budget in developing any donor into a major donor will be a waist of time if most of the donors can't afford to give in larger amounts. Focusing your fundraising budget where it is more likely to succeed doesn't just focus your fundraising work where it's more likely to succeed - it costs less for your nonprofit to develop its major donors and that kind of cost saving is invaluable today (and always).

Prize, Opportunity to Share U.S. Or Canadian K - 12 Students' Environmentally Sound Energy Conservation Ideas

[Please help us. We at The Grant Plant, LLC want to understand what nonprofits need from the services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

Students Invited to Submit Their Creative Energy Project Entries

Deadline: March 13, 2009

Johnson Controls ( http://www.johnsoncontrols.com/ ), a global multi-industrial leader in energy efficiency and sustainability, invites kindergarten through 12th grade students across North America to enter the Igniting Creative Energy competition.

The challenge, a program developed and funded by Johnson Controls and the National Energy Foundation ( http://www.nef1.org/ ), is designed to encourage students to learn more about energy and the environment.

Student entries should demonstrate an understanding of what an individual, family, or group can do in their home, school, or community to conserve energy and help the environment.

Students may choose to express their ideas in any creative format such as science projects, essays, stories, artwork, photographs, music, videos, Web-based applications, multimedia projects, etc.

They may also submit recent service projects.

The challenge is open to all students in grades K-12 in the U.S. and Canada, excluding Quebec.

A total of four grand prizes will be awarded to three students and one teacher. Three students, one in each grade cluster, whose work best addresses the challenge criteria will receive a hosted
trip to Washington, D.C., for themselves and a parent or legal guardian. In addition, the teacher with the highest average score of student work from fifteen or more qualifying entries will also
receive a trip for two to Washington, D.C. While in there, students will share their winning challenge entries with government and energy leaders during the 20th Annual Energy Efficiency Forum, June 15-16, at the National Press Club.

In addition to the national winners, the highest scoring student in each state or province will be recognized. Schools may also be eligible to receive a $1,000 U.S. charitable donation to help
beautify their school, educate their students, or otherwise impact their community.

Official rules and entry form are available at the program's Web site.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016379/ignite

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Save Your Nonprofit Money, Raise More Money, and Succeed - Yes, Now

Since getting back to work this new year, I am sure that your nonprofit is in the midst of making adjustments to survive this tough economy. You are probably also starting your organization's new programs and hoping to get as many new good volunteers that your group can (who couldn't use more good talented free help?!). Fundraising is probably stagnant or maybe even down. Your board may be fidgeting and your bookkeeper and CPA are probably wringing their hands. It is a tense time for all of us.

I can't recommend enough that your organization take stock now. If the organization does not know where it stands - it is truly wishful or even blind to plan or innovate and expect effective, efficient, or organization-saving methods or programs.

In my previous post, Nonprofit New Years Resolutions That Will Make Your Nonprofit A Better One ... I suggest that each organizational body, staff, and even volunteer and their potential, skills, and successes be compared to the work that is expected of them short and long term. The constant to keep in mind is that no one person (even you) or group of people (even the group you're in) or politics, policy, etc. in this organization is more important than the mission statement and the benefactors of your organization's work. If you and your colleagues can agree to put the mission and beneficiaries first - and then objectively and as honestly as possible assess one another, fairly, in comparison to each person's respective expected success - adjustments can be made, where necessary, to make success more likely. For instance, maybe a good employee or volunteer who is only falling short in one area can go through training or they can attend a course; or shadow a colleague who is successful at the necessary work, etc. For training ideas read our post, Places, Resources, and Ways To Learn Everything From Fundraising To Other Nonprofit Operations (Some Are Free)

I recommend, too, that you analyze each of your income streams. If today your organization has one way that it raises money or if it has fifteen different fundraising methods and events that it holds annually, analyze each. Do the analysis to determine each method's success rate, rate of total raised increased year to year, cost/benefit analysis to conduct the method, attendance rate year to year, etc. Maybe you should shop the current vendors' prices, that you work with, and see if you can cut costs by working with others who are just as good but cheaper. Also review your regular donors' giving (the donors who are individuals, families, and even local businesses that have donated once or twice recently). Break out how much these donors have given over the last two years and ask who is giving in larger amounts, consistently? These folks could be developed as your organization's major donors (if they aren't, already). If they are already being developed, set a realistic but higher bar than last year's for them to give at this year and work with them to achieve this goal. For the other regular donors, ask yourself why, in general, they value your organization in particular and then capitalize on that. Perhaps your organization is the only one, locally, working on your cause? Or, maybe your agency has served a lot of their family members in some way? Or perhaps your agency works in a very unique niche in your field of work. Capitalize on this connection that they have with your nonprofit by giving them more reason to want to support your agency (e.g. your success rate at what they connect with or upcoming new programs, etc.). Communicate with them, listen to them, and thank them. Consider which fundraising methods your organization hasn't recently used and ask yourself - is there one or two that we should be learning about to consider implementing? Look at other nonprofits that serve the same geographic region as yours' does, who also work on the same or similar cause as your group's, and review their annual reports. You could conduct a few different analyses. You can see which donors your group shares with theirs and look at how much they gave to other organizations last year. You can also compare your fundraising success (total raised in different giving tier levels) to theirs' and determine from that what more fundraising your group can realistically do in its own geographic region, you can also compare which methods of fundraising these other agencies are using compared to yours, and so on. I am not suggesting, here, that you should be doing what others are or that all nonprofits should do the same thing. What I am suggesting is that if you do analysis on your own organization's revenue streams and use that to better the organization; but then also compare your agency's success rate and methods to other organizations - you can easily see where your work may improve. If you aren't self analyzing your organization's work and success rate or noting what other nonprofits in your region who work on the same cause are doing - you are not in touch with your professional field or colleagues and their work; or your own organization's. For professionally acclaimed free training in various nonprofit fundraising methods, cost cutting ideas, and free nonprofit resources, see our post, Basic Grant Writing 101 and Other Ideas To Survive This Tough Economy

In these tough times - it is not all doom and gloom. And you aren't alone.

We are in the midst of beginnings...

We are almost half way through the first month of 2009; a week from Tuesday our nation inaugurates our new President; Americans in all sectors are innovating (perhaps more than we have collectively, since World War II) to create new jobs, improve this nation's failing infrastructure, develop brazen new solutions to the warming climate and shifting environments, create modes of transportation that will impact the environment less, develop forms of energy that burn more efficiently than natural gas or coal and are also less harmful to the environment; and as I've written, here, the nonprofit sector is no different. Adversity, such as an exceptionally tough economy and fundraising climate, forces unity and innovation - and I'm certain some great new professional nonprofit best practices will come from this down time, and they will have sprung from necessity - perhaps to answer questions such as 'what does a nonprofit do to survive, in a slowing economy?'.

I admit to being an idealist and I am certain that you and the organization that you work for have been perhaps more stressed than you have ever been knitting your brows trying to develop survival methods that will work. As I've said in my past two posts, here: we nonprofit volunteers and staff are in this together, town to city, city to state, state to state, and even nation to nation around the world. We can, as people working in the same field, come together to dream up solutions together. We aren't all competing for the same single dollar if you stop to consider that each and every cause that we work for exists in this world whether nonprofit staff and volunteers from different organizations sit down together or not. In other words - there are millions of causes and millions of donors and each are interested in different causes but many donors give to more than one nonprofit, annually(even now). So, yes, we can sit down together in a grange, down the road; or in a library conference room downtown; or in a major city to bring many organizations from cities across different states to work together to develop mutually beneficial solutions. If we can innovate and help people suffering from cancer, help lessen the depletion of the oceans' fisheries, and assist over one hundred elementaries to better feed their students - then many nonprofits' missions and constituents are going to be better served (instead of potentially losing the nonprofit that has taken up their fight).

Grants for Multiple Museums' Staff Who Are Training To Enhance Their Professional Development

[Please help us. We at The Grant Plant, LLC want to understand what nonprofits need from the services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

From The Foundation Center...

Institute of Museum and Library Services Calls for 21st Century Museum Professionals Grant Applications

Deadline: March 16, 2009

The Institute of Museum and Library Services ( http://www.imls.gov/ ) is calling for proposals from museums, museum service organizations, and universities for projects designed to enhance
the professional development of museum staff. The 21st Century Museum Professionals grants are intended to have an impact on multiple institutions by reaching broad groups of museum professionals throughout the nation's cities, counties, states, and regions.

Funding will support projects involving core management skills such as planning, leadership, finance, program design, partnership, and evaluation. Projects may also focus on collections
care and management, interpretation, marketing and audience development, staff retention, visitor services, governance, and other areas of museum operations.

Applicants may request from $15,000 to $500,000 each for a grant extending up to three years.
Program guidelines are available on the IMLS Web site. RFP Link:
http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016380/imls

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Nonprofit New Year's Resolutions That Will Make Your Nonprofit A Better One...

Happy New Year!

Being that we are underway in a baby new year we offer a 2009 New Year's Resolution list for your nonprofit to considering ramping up or implementing, if it's never been done there, before.

Organizational New Year's Resolutions for 2009:

First, pull the recent strategic plan, current fundraising plan (including the goals and benchmarks to achieve those goals), and any other recent ratified planning that has been completed on behalf of the organization's best interests out of the filing cabinet and evaluate the following keeping the organization's mission statement and ratified goals first, and foremost, in mind.

__ Objectively evaluate the organization's current board, overall, and then the board members, themselves, against what the organization needs to improve, grow, and provide more to the community. How capable is the board, as its own entity? Can it achieve the goals, benchmarks, succeed, and achieve the best for the nonprofit?

Fairly and objectively consider each individual board member. Are there members with different professional experiences and successes that creates a board very capable to professionally oversee, create good policy for, and plan so that the organization actually succeeds at its new goals? Is there a CPA, a lawyer, a professional fundraiser, a professional in your organization's field of work, etc.? If not - why not? Your organization needs leaders who know how to oversee a nonprofit professionally and can lead it to success and healthy growth. Does each member either raise or donate, themselves, the full annual board contribution amount expected of them, each year? Does each member attend 85% of all board meetings? Does each board member discuss why they volunteer with your organization with their friends, colleagues, and family? Does each board member occasionally volunteer with the organization or attend special or fundraising events?

Is there more of a focus on making sure that the board is complicit with the executive director? Is there a culture, in the nonprofit, that is focused on making sure there isn't any disagreement, an effort to be sure that no authority or decisions are questioned, or is there a culture of friends and family running an organization (rather than invested volunteers from the community, in general)?

Either revamp the board position job descriptions and expect a new level of knowledge, expertise, investment, involvement, success, etc. and educate them so that they become these new more effective, efficient, and successful leaders - or shop and recruit better board candidates to consider for newly open board positions. Get the best possible leadership for your organization - even if they aren't friends or family, even if they aren't likely to agree with everything you or the executive director decides or wants. Focus, instead, on what is best for the organization and its mission statement.

__ The staff, administrative volunteers, and the board should review the executive director considering if he/she has the experience and recently demonstrated their project management capabilities, track record for achieving benchmarks on time, focus, objectivity, professionalism, skills, and leadership skills to achieve the organization's goals successfully, efficiently, and in a timely manner.

__ Volunteers should be asked for suggestions. They should be asked to recommend improvements to the volunteer program at your nonprofit. Ask them how the nonprofit can make their volunteer experience a bit more rewarding, easier to do for the organization, and how the nonprofit can better retain the volunteers that its already trained and has. Take their recommendations under serious considerations. Remember, managing volunteers so that they feel achievement, success, fulfillment, and so that they feel listened to and valued is how to acquire and retain free people power. It is also how to maintain community. Every organization needs volunteers and for them to stay on with the nonprofit.

__ Staff should be asked for suggestions, too. These people are the folks who are most in touch with what the nonprofit is achieving, where it can improve its work and processes, and they can offer excellent suggestions to make the organization more efficient, leaner money-wise, and better at customer service and donor development. If a nonprofit does not concern itself with how well it is working with the community, it is likely only operating at a moderate capacity, compared to where it would be if it concerned itself with its image in the community and how it treats people and succeeds at its mission work. No nonprofit is an island. All organizations need donors, community support, success, and volunteers. If a nonprofit doesn't understand its ability to increase all of these through better community relations and outreach - the leadership needs to educate itself about professional nonprofit best practices.

__ If no independent, professional, annual financial audit is conducted, at your nonprofit, how do you know that the bookkeeper is doing their work correctly, that the board is overseeing the financials as well as they should be (according to the law), and that donations are being received and spent as they have been recorded? Furthermore, how do potential donors (such as larger amount donors, like foundations (grants), major donors, or other potential contributors) know that the nonprofit is spending money where it reports that it is? The professional best practice of transparency is an expectation, now - not just something that larger wealthier nonprofits can afford to do. For instance, it's pretty standard for grant donors to request the most recent audited financials (independently audited by a professional CPA) to be included with a nonprofit's grant application. If you don't include one - you've just made it easy for the potential grant donor to throw your application into the 'reject' pile. Transparency is a modern management method that is here to stay. Consider the cost of the audit as an investment in raising more and larger donations.

__ Share with colleagues working at other nonprofits, more this year; and listen to them more. Ask one or two to join in the discussion, too. Given this extremely difficult economy, now is the time for nonprofit professionals to come together and brainstorm, share innovations and successes, and listen to one another. New professional best practices come from innovation (probably in the face of adversity), innovation is tested when an organization implements the innovation and tracks results, and the successful innovations become best practices when the innovation is shared with colleagues at other nonprofits who try the innovation out themselves, and track the results. The successful innovations become new professionally accepted best practices. Right now - we nonprofit professionals need each other to innovate, share and listen. You may not think that you have the time, have the resources, or are that creative; but give us the benefit of the doubt and try. No one who developed a new innovation, knew beforehand, that they were about to invent a new professionally accepted nonprofit best practice. American communities need us to figure out how nonprofits will survive and thrive in today's tough times. We need you.

__ Try, this year, to make key decisions for the nonprofit not based on insecurities, on ego, on a personal career agenda, or other self serving perspectives. I'm not saying that you're selfish, evil, or fearful in your work. What I am saying is it is natural for people to operate from any one of these positions, in day to day activities. The way to grow an organization is to make the mission statement and the organization's beneficiaries the first consideration in all decision making. How can you improve this decision making even just a little bit? Work to (and practice) being conscientious. Regularly consciously check in with yourself about how you made a recent decision. If, to do this, you need to write on the calendar every few days 'am I focused on the mission statement?' - do it. Do whatever will work for you to regularly stop to really check yourself. Practice checking yourself, during decision making meetings, and think to yourself 'I am going to make this decision based on what is truly best for the organization's future and mission statement'. Encourage other leadership colleagues to do the same. Create a culture of 'mission statement first'.

These are exceptional times, yet, here you and I are. We are passionate and intelligent people, still working at it and because this is the case - we have a good chance. We need successful survival and achievement methods (professional best practices). Consider the state of the economy a challenge and take it on by grabbing the bull by the horns. If you discover any good survival methods, please share them (even here, on this blog, as a Comment, below). I promise to do the same. Happy new year!