Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NFP News Gains New Face in Cincinnati

I have exciting news to share that I believe will be of interest to our Indiana readers as we continue our efforts to support the nonprofit community. I launched the Cincinnati Not-for-Profit News in March 2008 after the success of our e-newsletter here in central Indiana. A big key to our growth and success, here in central Indiana, has been my ability to really get to know the nonprofits, funders, and related entities that build a strong nonprofit sector. Though we have more than 1500 subscribers in Cincinnati, I have not been able to spend the time there that would allow us to really know and serve that community as I would like.

I have asked Jane Page-Steiner, a long-time Cincinnati resident, nonprofit professional, and capacity-building consultant to take on the role of publisher for the Greater Cincinnati edition so we will have a more personal presence in the Greater Cincinnati area. Jane’s extensive experience in the nonprofit arena will ensure that the Cincinnati Not-for-Profit News stays in close touch with the needs of that community in addition to enhancing our promotional efforts there.

Jane is a respected nonprofit consultant, public speaker, and has been a part of the Cincinnati not-for-profit community for more than 20 years. She served for many years as the Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association in Cincinnati and has served on a national nonprofit board and worked for a national nonprofit. She is the President of JPS Nonprofit Strategies and will continue to offer her capacity-building consulting services. I am excited about partnering with Jane in this effort and am already enjoying the benefits of having another contributor on our team.

To learn more about Jane - www.JPSNonprofit.com

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. Though we see so much need, we also know we have so much to be grateful for.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How could 'Walking for Dreams 2010' benefit your Organization?

Last year, 17 non profits and 425 walkers raised over $60,000. Over the past 7 years, close to 100 organizations have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, in total. I have been involved since the 2nd or 3rd year walking for several different organizations. I think of 'Walking for Dreams' as the walk-a-thon event for organizations who: 1) aren't big enough to do their own event or 2) don't want to spend valuable volunteer or staff time on event organizing, or 3) want to gather a group of their supporters around fund raising for one particular program.

Here's how it works: There is a $250 upfront fee but then the Sycamore Foundation plans, manages, and runs the event. They even provide an on-line donation website where your walkers can form teams and receive donations. All your nonprofit does is solicit walkers to participate and raise funds for your organization. Whether you have 5 walkers or 50, it is a fun event and can raise a meaningful amount of money for the effort you invest.

Promoted as the 'Walking for Dreams Family and Pet 5k Walk', the event encompasses just a couple hours of a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the scenic Canal Walk downtown. The energy is terrific, the colors are bright, the faces are happy. Each organization is assigned a table to greet and gather their walkers plus promote their organization to others in attendance. Everyone steps out together and then winds their way through the walk route and back to food and festivities at their own pace.

A Walk-a-thon event is a great way to introduce people to your organization, a good strategy to give reluctant board members or staff a 'harmless' way to talk about your organization with friends and family, and a nice time for social connection between people who care about your organization.

To learn more or get signed up for the May 23, 2010 event, visit www.WalkingforDreams.org and call 317-260-0669.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Are Federal Poverty Guidelines for Income Meaningful?

The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Indiana 2009 released by the Indiana Institute for Working Families (Institute), a program of the Indiana Community Action Association (IN-CAA), shows that more Hoosiers are lacking the resources needed to meet their basic needs. The Self-Sufficiency Standard is a more meaningful measure of income adequacy compared to the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). According to the FPG, families are characterized as "poor" if their income is below the FPG and "not poor" if their incomes are above them.

For example, the FPG for a family of three in 2009 is $18,310 annually, the equivalent of earning $8.80 an hour for full-time employment. According to the 2009 Self-Sufficiency Standard, a family of three - consisting of one adult, one preschooler, and one school age child - is $42,117 annually - the equivalent of earning $19.94 an hour or approximately 230 percent of the FPG. This Standard Wage incorporates the cost of a two bedroom housing unit, the cost of full-time child care, food, health care, transportation, and taxes in Marion County. For this family type in Marion County, they must earn wages that are almost three times the current Federal Minimum Wage of $7.25 per hour.

Earlier this month the U.S. Census Bureau released 2008 American Community Survey data showing that Indiana's median household income has declined to $47,699 and is lower than it was in 2000. Additionally, the number of Hoosiers living in poverty has increased as reflected in the state's poverty rate of 13.1 percent – based on the FPG. "However, if a more accurate measure of the amount of income needed by families was used, as opposed to the FPG, we would find even more Hoosiers are not earning enough to meet their basic needs," said Lisa Travis, with the Institute. The Self-Sufficiency Standard shows family earnings can be well above the official FPG yet below what is needed for families to meet their basic needs. To view the full report, visit the News and Update section on IN-CAA's homepage at www.incap.org.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Do You Know of a Great Local Program with National Potential?

Several nationally prominent nonprofit thought leaders have partnered with Duke University and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create the Social Impact Exchange. This will be a concerted effort to identify nonprofits and programs that are having real impact and connect them to resources to expand and replicate that impact. There is no cost to become a member and they will provide on-line resources and forums in addition to an annual conference, regular training/meeting events, and an annual competition to identify and financially support the best ideas. What do you like about this type of effort? Why will it work or how could it be better? 

Read More. 

IRT Halloween Promotion for Nonprofits

I’m sure most families have Halloween plans for Saturday, but the IRT has a great family show going on right now - The Giver, based on the popular novel by Lois Lowry. The IRT is offering a special 2-for-1 ticket offer for either the 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. show on Saturday. I know it’s Halloween, but the show is only 80 minutes so families can still go trick-or-treating after the afternoon show or make it to a Halloween party after the evening show. It’s simple to get tickets, just call the ticket office at 317.635.5252 and mention the code “spread the word”. I hope some of your families, clients or friends can take advantage of the special offer. For more information about the show visit www.irtlive.com/shows_and_tickets/shows/giver.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is Outsourcing or Sharing Back Office Operations the Answer?

A new study tackles the on-going conversation about whether nonprofits can save money and improve services by combining or outsourcing backoffice operations.

Small to mid-sized nonprofits have always struggled to meet their needs for the administrative and professional services that support their core program work. Often referred to as “back‐office” needs, these services have typically included:

· Finance and administration (e.g., routine book keeping and accounting, financial planning, budgeting and reporting, vendor management, etc).
· Human resources (e.g., benefits administration, payroll processing, policy development, recruiting, personnel management, etc).
· Information technology (e.g., computer hardware and software procurement and maintenance, database management and support, website development and updating, etc).

While less commonly understood to be “back‐office” functions, the Meyer grantee survey also identified “public relations, communications, and marketing” and “fundraising and development” as pressing needs for which better solutions are urgently needed. Experts interviewed for this study confirmed the Meyer grantee survey findings that:

· HR issues almost always poll highest in polls of most needed back‐office services.
· Finance and IT are the most in‐demand services for outsourcing by small nonprofits.
· Development and fundraising assistance by outside firms is in great (and increasing) demand.

The Phase I Survey revealed that a large percentage of small nonprofit executives are performing many of these back‐office functions themselves, and many or most of them are dissatisfied with their own performance. For some functions (financial planning, human resources, PR, communications, and IT), high levels of dissatisfaction are reported even when performed by in‐house paid staff, external consultants or pro bono professionals.

The impacts of not finding better solutions to these back‐office needs include: inefficiency and burnout; high staff turnover, cash flow crises, loss of funding, missed opportunities, diminished impact and threats to growth and sustainability. At best, these are enormous distractions for leaders of small nonprofits. At worst, the lack of adequate back‐office infrastructure is responsible for their ineffectiveness in achieving their mission (Non‐Profit Overhead Cost Study, Brief No. 3, August 2004) and incalculable human and financial waste.

The study provides great insight, but unfortunately finds few cost-saving solutions noting that an organization that currently spends little or nothing on HR, Acctg, or IT cannot save money by outsourcing or combining it.

Read the full study. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Can a Founder or Longtime Executive Director Step Down But Not Leave?

Conventional Wisdom Says: To not undermine a new leader's authority--and to allow the organization to develop in new ways--the founder must leave the organization completely when they step down from the top leadership position.

Table for Two's Findings Say: While not for most organizations, there are conditions under which a founder and successor can co-exist - maximizing the founder's assets for the overall good of the organization and reinforcing one another's success in their new roles.

Based on in-depth analysis of six cases in which the founder or long term founder-like leader successfully remains after stepping down from the top post, Table for Two provides:

- A new model for leadership transitions.
- A broader range of options for the founder's continuing role and contributions.
- Insights into the personal and organizational factors needed for success in such transitions.
- An integrated approach to weighing and managing the risks and benefits involved.
- Challenges, coping strategies, and recommendations for founders, successors, boards of directors, and staff.
- Recommendations for funders who wish to support their grantees' executive transitions.

Download the Summary or Full Report.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mainstreaming Networks in Philanthropy

While the idea of networks is not new to philanthropy, grantmakers are paying increased attention to the concept. In part, this is thanks to the advent of new technologies that have revolutionized the way we engage with one another. While networking still takes time and resources, connecting across organizational, geographic and time boundaries is easier, cheaper and faster than ever before. But this newfound interest in networks is not driven by technology alone. Rather, it reflects the sector’s need to increase impact. Grantmakers and nonprofits recognize that often even the most resourceful organizations are dwarfed by the issues they face. Sharing knowledge, synchronizing messages, coordinating efforts and pooling resources can help organizations reach their goals and achieve lasting, system-wide results.

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), a national membership organization for foundations focused on nonprofit effectiveness featured networking building in this month’s update. As networking as evolved in to a verb over the past years, it has often been associated with a high level of activity but a low level of order. A new study from the Interaction Institute offers some strategies to make the development of networks more valuable and more efficient.

Read the executive summary.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Foundation Training

The Foundation Center is offering a FREE training on effective grantseeking - Fundraising in a Challenging Environment - Monday, 9/14/09, 1:30-3:30pm at Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More Insights on Engaging Board Members

If you get through the first few paragraphs of this recent Guidestar.org article there is some useful information about what is important to many of your most prized board members or prospects.

“Six recurring themes were identified as the foundation for most issues and solutions: connectivity, no surprises, importance of time, improved communications, accountability, and organizational focus.”

The survey noted also asked board prospects why they turn down invitations to serve – “… major reasons cited for declining a board invitation or for leaving a board position include nonprofits being run without an organized focus, reputation issues, financial questions, staff who do not project a professional image, or being known for having any of the previously mentioned challenges.”

Read Entire Article

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Recruiting and Vetting Nonprofit Board Members

As we head into the fall, it is time for nominating and governance committees to be ramping up for January board member transition. Bridgespan offers some words of wisdom in:

A key ingredient to increasing a nonprofit organization's impact in the community it serves is having the right people on the team. Critical to this team are an organization's board members.
"Board composition is a key lever," said Jeri Eckhart-Queenan, a partner at the Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit advisor to nonprofits and philanthropy. "Having the right people with the right skills helps theorganization achieve its strategic goals." Therefore, the first question that nonprofits should consider as they start to formulate their board recruiting plans is: What are our key strategic priorities, and what new skills or expertise might we need on our board to help us achieve those priorities? >>Read Full Report 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Generation BIG - Bold, Innovative and Generous

Our own Will Austin, founder of the Institute for Affordable Transportation - B.U.V. in Indianapolis is among the people and organizations profiled in financial expert Jeff Smith’s new book. In “GenerationBIG ~ The Rising Tide of Dreams to Action,” Smith, together with co-authors Tom Ruwitch and Mark Patterson, profiles a number of extraordinary 21st century visionaries and philanthropists who have given back in a BIG way.


Profiles include:

  • Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, whose bold vision is to distribute two billion low-cost laptop computers to children in developing nations.
  • Brian Mullaney, co-founder of Smile Train, which has repaired the cleft lips or palates of more than 500,000 children.
  • Will Austin, Institute of Affordable Transportation with a mission to improve lives and self reliance in impoverished countries by facilitating the spread of simple Basic Utility Vehicles..
  • Bruce Cohn, owner of B.R. Cohn Winery and lifelong manager of the Doobie Brothers, who weaves massive generosity into all his business ventures.
  • Jeremy Courtney, a 29-year-old from central Texas, who has moved to northern Iraq to help Iraqi children receive life-saving heart surgery in Israel.
  • Betsey Beckmann, a stay-at-home mom who, with her young daughters, supplies coats, hats, and gloves to school children in need out of her basement.


Smith’s book goes on to talk about what it takes to be a BIG thinker and to act those ideas. The authors have established a website see their efforts as part of a growing grassroots effort. “BIG is not a demographic.” he noted, “It’s a mindset, and it’s a movement.  Through our GenerationBIG book, website and Big Across America effort, we want to help as many people as possible join this movement.” For more information, visit www.GenerationBIG.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Increasing Accountability - Principles Workbook Helps Organizations Improve Governance

Since their release in 2007 by Independent Sector, the Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice have helped nonprofit organizations across the country reflect on and strengthen their operations. To make it even more practical, here comes the Free Principles Workbook: Steering Your Board Toward Good Governance and Ethical Practice to provide further support for nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs committed to examining and improving their governance practices.

Independent Sector created the workbook in partnership with BoardSource, the nation’s leading resource on nonprofit governance. The Principles Workbook will make it easier for boards of directors and staff leaders to assess the areas where their organizations are doing well and where there is room for improvement. It distills the core concepts in each of the 33 principles and suggests points for board and staff to discuss about their current practices. Progress worksheets accompanying each of the four sections assist nonprofits and foundations in making plans and recording their progress. The worksheets are also available as a separate document; this file is designed so people can enter their steps directly into the forms by using Adobe Acrobat.

>>Read entire article.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Executive Transition – When Is It Time to Leave?

In an entry this past Spring, I posed the question of some nonprofit leaders delaying retirement due to the economic crisis. In my mind, being the Executive Director of a smaller nonprofit is one of the toughest jobs there is. Whether you are 30 years old or 70 years old, these questions might provide some good reflection on your work. This one page list can help you identify both personal and organizational preparation to make your eventual departure a more positive experience for everyone. >>Read more.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seeking Nonprofits to Partner with Public Allies in Indianapolis

Public Allies' mission is to advance new leadership
to strengthen communities, non-profits and civic participation

The Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center (INRC) will receive a $373,453 AmeriCorps grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to partially fund a total of 30 AmeriCorps ‘Public Allies’ members who will support Indianapolis not-for-profits.

Currently, there are Public Allies efforts in 15 communities across the country. Members serve nonprofit organizations working in a variety of fields: 30% youth development, 26% education, 20% community and/or economic development, 4% housing, 4% environmental projects, and 11% other human needs.

Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program, has a comprehensive program model that blends community service, nonprofit capacity building, civic engagement and leadership development with best practice evaluation processes. As a program of INRC, Public Allies will tap into a premier pipeline for developing diverse young nonprofit and community leaders in Indianapolis to connect across cultures, facilitate collaborative action, and recognize the assets of communities. Public Allies Indianapolis apprenticeship placements will begin in October 2009 and applications to become a Public Allies Indianapolis Partner Organization are currently being accepted. A financial investment is required of Partner nonprofits.

The deadline for Partner Organization Applications is Friday, July 31, 2009. To learn more about Public Allies Indianapolis, go to www.inrc.org or contact Marc McAleavey at INRC at 317-920-0330, ext. 104 or by email at Apply-IN@publicallies.org.

20 Emergency Funding Ideas

We know we can always count on the professionals at Fieldstone Alliance in Minneapolis for great resources. Toward that end, consultants Tom Triplett and Alexis Cress developed the following list of 20 emergency funding ideas. These are revenue sources that can be accessed quickly—usually within 30 days. Not all of these sources are available to all nonprofits, and some of them carry great risk. Nonetheless, we hope you find the list useful and thought-provoking. They urge you to combine ideas for a comprehensive response. Funding sources like to know that they're not the only avenue you're pursuing.

For example, you may want to put together a quick-hit fundraising initiative with a re-pricing of your services.

The strategies are broken into five categories:

1) Cash Flow Management
2) Contributed Income
3) Earned Income
4) Debt Financing
5) Existing Assets

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reflections on Leadership Transition in an Economic Downturn

In mid-June, I co-facilitated a conference call for about 20 consultants who provide support to nonprofit organizations going through some type of executive transition – could be retirement, firing, or routine turnover for a better position. These consultants were from across the country and many have been doing this work for years. There were several comments that caught my interest that I thought other nonprofit leaders in Central IN and SW Ohio might be interested in:

· Retiring Executive Directors are commonly looking to continue their work in the sector through serving as Interim EDs, Board consulting, or as part-time program advisors to nonprofits or foundations.

· A coach can be a great idea to assist an Executive Director who is beginning to think about retirement.

· The value of using an Interim executive director in a transition from a long-time leader or when an organization is struggling is finally beginning to gain acceptance. Funders generally “get it” but many nonprofit boards perceive it as a sign of weakness to not immediately hire a permanent replacement.

· The departure of a long-term executive is one of the few “windows of opportunity” where boards are more likely to consider merging with a similar or complementary organization.

· Some Executive Directors have delayed retirement, sometimes to the detriment of their organizations. This can put boards in a tough situation and force them to make some hard decisions about what is best for the organization. Some organizations are making special arrangements to supplement income or insurance as they ease out a leader.

· Executive Directors who retired 2-3 years ago are coming back into the workplace and looking for new work opportunities.

· Some consultants are seeing more demand for organization closedown services and are even being trained in grieving and loss to better support staff and supporters.

· Consultants are offering a wide range of support services to nonprofits who are preparing for or going through leadership transition. Ranging from full service preparation, assessment, search, and on-boarding to ala carte or training the organization to do each segment of the process themselves.

If your organization is anticipating the transition of a long-term executive, seeking an interim until you hire a new executive, or looking for a coach, please contact Ruthie Purcell-Jones at Leadership Ventures at 317-636-5323 or Bryan Orander at 317-752-7153. Watch for more reflections on Executive Transition in the months ahead.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Executive Transition Management

On June 1-3, 2009 twenty consultants from as far away as Hawaii, gathered at Leadership Ventures in Indianapolis to learn and share about the process of nonprofit executive departures and new executive arrivals. I was honored to serve as the local trainer joining Tim Wolfred and Byron Johnson from CompassPoint in San Francisco. Through discussion and role play, we covered the well-researched “Prepare, Pivot, Thrive Model” that Tim has played a major role in establishing as the standard across the country. I was especially excited that a dozen of the participating consultants were from central Indiana and one was from Columbus. Ohio.

I think we are now well equipped to handle both the routine volume of transitions and the anticipated rush of Boomers as the economy improves. If your organization is anticipating the transition of a long-term executive or seeking an interim until you hire a new executive, please contact Ruthie Purcell-Jones at Leadership Ventures at 317-636-5323 or me at 317-752-7153. Tim Wolfred’s new book has just been released “Managing Executive Transitions” and will be a great resource – be sure to catch my endorsement on the back cover (does that count as being published) . Watch for more reflections on Executive Transition in the months ahead.

Tim’s book is available here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nifty Tool for Deciding if Programs Fit

There are no easy answers, but I was recently reminded by a colleague in Fort Wayne of a really interesting tool developed by Ian MacMillan of the Wharton School of Business. It asks you to identify four primary factors about each of your programs and then provides a framework to “plug them in”. Based on where each program falls, it offers guidance for how you might proceed. Take a look, try it with a program. What if funders took off a cycle from requesting logic models and ask you to submit a McMillan Matrix for all of your programs – what would you and your board learn?

The Four Factors Are:

High or Low Mission and Expertise Fit - Is it a great fit or poor fit with your mission and abilities?

Attractiveness to Supporters - Is it easy or difficult to get funded, attract volunteers, build buzz on an
on-going basis?

Competitive Position Within your Service Area - Are clients and supporters loyal, are you getting great outcomes, do people associate you with this work?

Alternative Providers in your Service Area - Are you the only provider of this type of program or do people have many alternatives?

Here is a link to a nice two-page summary of the tool.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A New Day Dawning for 403(b) Plans

Written by: Brian S. Harvey, CPA, Barnes Dennig (Cincinnati)

Major changes are underway to bring filing and audit requirements for 403(b) tax-sheltered annuity plans in line with those of 401(k) plans. If your organization offers such a plan, you'll need to get busy, as changes are effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.

First, Some Background

Until recently, 403(b) plans were exempt from Form 5500 reporting and audit requirements. But recent amendments to Department of Labor regulations mean that ERISA-covered 403(b) plans are now subject to virtually the same reporting and audit requirements as 401(k)s, including a requirement that plan sponsors maintain written plan documents. (In the closing days of 2008, the IRS extended the deadline for written plan documents from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009.)

Why, you may ask? The DOL found violations in 78% of 403(b) plans that they reviewed. They want employers/plan sponsors to take more responsibility and be more accountable for the program they establish.

It is important to note that, while your organization may face significant challenges in meeting these new plan requirements, the process is intended to help ensure the financial integrity of your 403(b) plan and ultimately help secure the retirement income of the employees.

Will You Be Impacted? >>Read the full article.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Doing Better with Less? (and results from our April Nonprofit Survey)

It was fun to be asked back to speak to one of the peer groups that I assisted in initially convening some 5-6 years ago. This group of nonprofit marketing professionals met at Butler University this month and was hosted by the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. Their next meeting will be in mid-July – you can find them on Smaller Indiana.

For decades, the nonprofit sector has been told to “Do More with Less”. In the current economic crunch, nationally known speaker and author Jan Masaoka has suggested we must now “Do Less with Less”. Read

The theme that came out of discussion with this group last week was to move beyond that mindset to think about “Doing Better with Less”. Looking for ways to narrow our focus and serve our core constituencies in new and better ways. Examples included centralizing intake and handing off programs that are not a tight match to your mission or where you don’t have the critical mass/size to promote, fund, and do them really well.

We have done some initial compilation of the responses to our early April nonprofit survey.

These reflect Indpls and we will be compiling Cincy area responses next.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Accepting Donations Online: Three Great Service Providers

Sometimes we can be theoretical and sometimes we need to be practical. If you are thinking about adding on-line donation to your website or exploring changes in the way you do things, you’ll find this article of interest. Bryan Orander

Accepting Donations Online: Three Great Service Providers - More people than ever are making donations to charitable organizations via the internet. They already shop, work and play online, why not give? If your group is not yet taking donations online, now is the perfect time to start. The tools that make online giving possible are becoming much more user friendly for both the charity and the donor. Plus the technology is more affordable than ever. >>Read entire article.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The First Collaboration Prize - $250,000 Goes to Two Organizations

Third in a series on Nonprofit Restructuring

The national Collaboration Prize was created by the Lodestar Foundation to support collaborations that increase impact and eliminate duplication of efforts among nonprofits that would otherwise compete. In support of this mission, Lodestar seeks to identify achievements in collaboration as models for inspiration and replication in the nonprofit world.

The Prize also seeks to build an information base of effective practice models that can be studied and used by academics, nonprofit leaders, and grantmakers to inspire and advance their work. True to the spirit of collaboration, the Lodestar Foundation has partnered with the AIM Alliance which includes The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University

In the summer of 2008, over 600 nominations were received for the inaugural year of the Prize. The collaborations that advanced demonstrated quantifiable evidence that they achieved exceptional impact and substantially eliminated the duplication of efforts through programmatic collaborations, administrative consolidation, or other joint activities.

First-Ever $250,000 National Nonprofit Collaboration Prize Contest Ends in Tie Between Two Successful Mergers – YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo Area and Dallas Museum of Nature & Science - More

This link is to a series of one page overviews of the finalists (12 pgs - 4MB).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Where is the Positive Language and Thinking around Nonprofit Restructuring?

Second in a series on Nonprofit Restructuring

There are many reasons for it, but have you noticed that many business owners, in the competitive marketplace, build their businesses with the goal of merging into another organization while nonprofits build their ‘collaboration-minded’ organizations with the goal of remaining independent?

When we hear restructure or merger, nonprofit leaders may have a gut-level response:

. Who says bigger is better?

. No one does it like we do

. We owe it to our clients/patrons/funders to continue our work, our way

. What would happen to our staff, especially our ED

. We would have to give up control

. We would lose our identity

. That would only be a last resort, if we were about to close

In many conversations over the past few weeks with foundation and nonprofit staff I am noticing that we have a severe shortage of “role models”. While there are certainly positive examples of nonprofit restructuring or combinations, they are not well-known and easily overshadowed by the more typical “Merge before we close” stories.

Though we want to believe that we can all put client and community needs above our own, that really can only take us so far. The entrepreneur walks away from the business she created with a big paycheck that can launch her next venture or move her toward early retirement. The nonprofit leader puts in extra effort with the hope that they are not eliminating their own job or that they can find another.

In the weeks and months ahead, we would love your assistance in helping us think about how we can identify and convey the positive, even personal, aspects of nonprofit organizations coming together in new and deeper ways.

Some initial thinking:

Larger size allows an Executive Director to hire experienced, professional staff in more key roles to make everyone’s efforts more productive and less stressful.

Executive Directors who have not enjoyed their roles can move into a position with narrower responsibilities. (I worked with two organizations in a merger years ago where one ED became the CFO and loved the new role.)

By adding a complementary set of services, one program becomes a primary feeder or referral source for another, decreasing client outreach costs and increasing long-term engagement.

With advanced planning, the departure/retirement of a chief executive might be a time to bring organizations together.

Research is telling us that the next generation of leaders is looking for new, shared leadership structures – perhaps the kind that could form when you bring multiple organizations together.

All-Star Board – Many boards have a handful of people who do much of the work. Is there an opportunity to bring together some of the best practices and people from two or more organizations?

Hope you’ll add to the conversation on our Blog.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When people say “More Nonprofits Should Merge”, what do they really mean?

First in a series on Nonprofit Restructuring

It seems that the pressure is on from all directions for nonprofits to “merge”. Foundations are talking about it, business leaders are talking about it, economic circumstances are predicted to necessitate it.

We opened our Human Service breakout session at the March 16 Nonprofit Town Hall in Indy with the question: “What are the positive outcomes people are looking for when they say we need more collaborations and mergers?” I asked that question because I see too many people getting caught up in the means and forgetting the ends. By that, I am not saying collaborations and mergers are bad, but they are possible strategies toward accomplishment of some desirable outcome, not the outcome itself.

Some thoughts from our group on what we mean when we say “we need more collaborations and mergers” included:


Organizations with shared goals and plans

Provision of multiple services at neighborhood sites

Referrals/trust between providers

Shared programs

Variety in service options

Effective use of resources (people, dollars, volunteers, etc.)

Increased reach and impact

Creative solutions


Organizations pursuing funding from area foundations

Duplications in the provision of services

I suggest that our conversations be focused on how we can best accomplish the above and consider all of the alternative ways to get there. Hope you’ll add to the conversation on our Blog.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Preliminary Survey Results

We have already had almost 200 organizational responses to our local (Indy and Cincy) nonprofit Surveys “How are you Doing?” distributed on Monday morning. Many of the results are what we would expect - about 60% of respondents are Executive Directors/CEOs of their organizations and there is a good mix of organizations from small to very large and across most sectors. It looks like there were not many staff pay raises this year, that a sizable majority of respondents have more than 3 months financial reserves as of the first of April, and are using a wide range of strategies to sustain their work. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Securing the Future: Think Now, Think Next – April 30 - Cincinnati

Here is an extraordinary opportunity to hear from some of the most experienced leaders in the field

What: The future is NOW for nonprofit organizations. Join nationally known speakers Bob Johansen and Jan Masaoka for an educational conference focused on how today's planning strategies will determine the ongoing success of your nonprofit. This day-long event will give you the opportunity to network with peers within the Cincinnati region.

When: Thursday, April 30 from 8:00am -3:30pm

Where: Hyatt Regency Hotel, 151 West Fifth Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Featured Speakers:

Dr. Bob Johansen, Author, Leaders Make the Future will lead an interactive experience focused ten years ahead. What leadership skills will be most important—given the external future forces? What can you do to learn new leadership skills for the future and improve your own readiness?

Jan Masaoka, Director & Editor-in-Chief, Blue Avocado - will help you find the right prescription for sustaining the immediate future of your organization. This is a time of great risk, intense and agonizing pressure, and necessity for change. She has been recognized nationally as one of the “50 Most Influential People” in the nonprofit sector was named national “Nonprofit Executive of the Year” in 2003.

Ellen van der Horst, President & CEO, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber - Ellen is involved in many of this region’s most critical initiatives and will discuss building bridges between businesses and nonprofits.

Brochure, showing NFP News as a sponsor - Registration for the event - only $70, including Dr. Johansen’s latest book.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2009 Nonprofit Town Hall

On March 17th, over 300 nonprofit leaders and supporters convened in downtown Indianapolis for the second annual Indiana Nonprofit Town Hall. The event was hosted again this year by Leadership Ventures and Indianapolis ORG Magazine with support from the United Way of Central Indiana, the Indianapolis Foundation, and the Indiana Grantmakers’ Alliance.

Two prominent national speakers and a panel of local grant makers set the context for the day, challenging participants to collaborate, enhance efficiency and increase innovation. “Conversations” were the theme of the day, featuring roundtable discussions of over thirty (30) strategies for cutting costs and maximizing resources. Participants assembled with colleagues to begin creating plans for building partnerships and alliances moving forward.

The most mentioned and unique idea from the day was the potential for an umbrella organization for the nonprofit sector, a nonprofit “chamber of commerce” type organization to provide structured opportunities for collaboration, sharing costs, and advocating on behalf of the sector. Further conversations on many of the Town Hall topics and ideas are being planned.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Where Does the Philanthropic Sector Fit into the New Order?

We generally try to steer clear of politics but do want to make sure that you are keeping up with one of the latest government proposals that might be a sign of more things to come - hopefully not. While the new administration in Washington is expected to increase government funds flowing to certain nonprofit sectors and encourage involvement in community service, recent suggestions to curb the tax deductibility of charitable contributions for the wealthy raises new questions.

My hope was that a life of community organizing and advocacy for underserved and under-resourced populations by our new president would translate into an equal emphasis on promoting philanthropy for all.

I was surprised to find that with an income of $207,000 - $270,000 in the years before President Obama’s books were published, reported donations never exceeded $3400 or about 0.5-1.5% of income. As his income jumped to $1mil/yr, charitable giving increased to the 5-6% range.

I’m sure we could argue that the wealthy give too little to basic needs and too much to organizations that are already well-endowed, but what is this really saying? Should we view that the philanthropic sector is not a critical complement to the business and government sectors but rather exists to work as a government contractor?

If you are a subscriber to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, be sure to read Leslie Lenkowsky’s commentary – “Government Activism vs. Private Charity: What's Best?” www.philanthropy.com (sorry I can’t provide a direct link to the full article)

Read more about this tax changes potential impact on charitable giving from the IU Center on Philanthropy.

If you want to see presidential tax returns, visit.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Four Principles for Making Your Newsletter a Powerful Fundraising Tools

One of the few things I remember from my short high school basketball career 35(choke) years ago was how easily distracted we were from our game plans and how often the coach had to steer us back to “The Basics”. I came across this article and was reminded of how quickly we can be sidetracked into thinking that fundraising is about us and not the donor – whether in person or on-line.

Jeff’s four principles for on-line newsletters can apply in other mediums as well:

1) It’s about your donor
2) You need your donor
3) Use the power of story
4) Use headlines that keep readers reading

See the article - Four Principles for Making Your Newsletter a Powerful Fundraising -
By Jeff Brooks: Nov 29, 2007

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How has the Economy Impacted the Pending Leadership Shortage?

Less than twelve months ago, we were expressing concern about the approaching retirement of many long-term nonprofit leaders. With the stock market down 50%, we expect that considerably fewer leaders are thinking about retiring in the next few years. This means that we will continue to benefit from the many long-term leaders who are still energized and effective in their roles and that those leaders who should have retired several years ago will be hanging on even longer. How should we view this situation? I have a few thoughts and hope you will add yours at our blog:

1) CEO/Executive Directors could use this additional time to develop other staff, their leadership team, and their board
2) CEO/Executive Directors could explore alternative staff roles or organizations and pass leadership on to others
3) Board leaders who have been “waiting it out” need to consider having some candid conversations with their CEO/EDs (perhaps after speaking with their attorneys)

Please share your thoughts

How has the Economy Impacted the Pending Leadership Shortage?

Less than twelve months ago, we were expressing concern about the approaching retirement of many long-term nonprofit leaders. With the stock market down 50%, we expect that considerably fewer leaders are thinking about retiring in the next few years. This means that we will continue to benefit from the many long-term leaders who are still energized and effective in their roles and that those leaders who should have retired several years ago will be hanging on even longer. How should we view this situation? I have a few thoughts and hope you will add yours at our blog:

1) CEO/Executive Directors could use this additional time to develop other staff, their leadership team, and their board
2) CEO/Executive Directors could explore alternative staff roles or organizations and pass leadership on to others
3) Board leaders who have been “waiting it out” need to consider having some candid conversations with their CEO/EDs (perhaps after speaking with their attorneys)

Please share your thoughts

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Your Conference and Professional Development Calendar for Early 2009

Whether February 2009 finds you humming along in a nonprofit role you love, struggling to find new ideas to keep your organization afloat, or temporarily between jobs – there are great opportunities for learning, networking, or expanding your thinking on the horizon.

March 17 – Indiana Nonprofit Town Meeting

Focus – last year’s inaugural event attracted more than 300 participants who explored issues about the role of nonprofits in our communities and contributed to a national discussion about what the sector can and should be doing.

Speakers – Nationally recognized keynotes

Format – Keynote speakers with lots of breakouts and group discussions

FMI or to register www.LeadershipVentures.org

Other comments – only $25 to attend – come visit us at the Nonprofit Resources Fair

April 22 & 23 - Nonprofit Solutions Conference

Focus – Capacity Building Training

Speakers – National keynote, selected local trainers and university staff

Format – Traditional - Keynotes and breakout tracks for training

FMI or to register (may not have registration set up yet)

April 30 – Think Now, Think Next - Securing the Future 2009 - Cincinnati

Focus – This event has been co-hosted by Leadership Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce for the past 8 years with typical attendance in the 300+ range. This year’s format brings nationally known speakers on future trends and nonprofit management plus a little populous appeal (Exec Dir of the Oprah Foundation).

Format – extended time with each speaker, discussion to apply their ideas to your organization.

FMI or to register

Other comments – let us know if you are going and we may be able to coordinate some shared travel arrangements. ( Bryan@CharitableAdvisors.com )

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

5 Keys to “Meeting Your Donor’s Needs

by Katya Andresen

I don’t know about you, but I have had about enough of the language of gloom and doom. I restated the title of this article in a more positive tone, you’ll see the real title on the link. The author does a very nice and succinct job of sharing how we can better relate to our supporters under any circumstances. It’s a short read and gets you thinking.
Share your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Note from Bill Gates - What’s it Like to Run the Largest Foundation?

Thank you to Marta Fetterman at Indiana Youth Institute for sharing Bill Gates first annual letter since he moved from Chairman of Microsoft to the Gates Foundation. He shares some really interesting insights about the intensity of business and nonprofit work, the similarities he sees and the differences. He also gives some insight into foundation projects that have not achieved the results they had hoped and how the foundation determines where to invest next. Read the full article and share your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Charting a New Course – Ideas from the Arts Sector

My find this week was the transcript from a presentation in New York City last fall that challenged arts organizations to look at their work and their audiences in new ways. I am not often one to read a 13 page article but it kept me engaged and got me thinking. I also saw many ideas and principles that would apply beyond the arts world. My thanks to Heather Hallenberg of the Fine Arts Fund in Cincinnati for sharing it with me. The Fine Arts Fund raises $12 million a year from a workplace giving campaign and provides capacity building for local arts organizations. They are preparing to kick off their 2009 campaign (see the video).

Excerpt from “Surviving the Culture Change” – Diane E. Ragsdale

“Last summer, on the recommendation of Ruby Lerner at Creative Capital, I read the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Gonzales spent years trying to understand why some people survive harrowing circumstances-like an avalanche-and others do not.

I was particularly interested in a chapter in which he examines how people get lost. Gonzales explains that the way we navigate in life is by forming and following mental maps: literally pictures in our minds of particular areas or routes. Gonzales says you get lost when you "fail to update your mental map and then persist in following it even when the landscape," (the real world), "tries to tell you it's wrong."' Edward Cornell, one of the scientists Gonzales showcases in the book, gives an example of this. He says, "Whenever you start looking at your map and saying something like, 'Well, that lake could have dried up,' or 'That boulder could have moved,' a red light should go off. You're trying to make reality conform to your expectations rather than seeing what's there. In the sport of orienteering, they call this 'bending the map.’

Gonzales describes five stages that a person goes through when lost, which correlate with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Gonzales says that the final stage-acceptance-is the one that separates those that survive from those that don't. Here's how he describes it, "... as you run out of options and energy, you must become resigned to your plight. Like it or not, you must make a new mental map of where you are." Not where you wish you were.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What are Your Experiencing? Part 2

This week I wanted to share the board topics that came out of my conversations two weeks ago with two groups of nonprofit leaders. I joined a group of senior fund raisers in Indianapolis to discuss issues within their organizations and the community, hosted at Gleaners.

Thoughts and ideas that caught my attention:

Spend more of your time with board members who “get it” and can help gets things done and help engage other board members.

Ask questions that force board members to wrestle with their values and reasons for being part of the organization. This may be best initiated in a retreat or extended working session. Some will be real and some as preparation for the real thing.

- Define a Gift Acceptance Policy – are there people, businesses, or organizations we would not accept funds from or not want to be associated with?

- What is an appropriate reserve for our organization? How do we feel about putting our funds into service versus setting them aside for the future?

• In one mid-sized nonprofit, the Development Director serves as the recorder for board meetings. She drafts the minutes and then reviews them with the Exec Dir and Board Secretary. This has had, at least, three positive effects – 1) the board members know her and consider her part of the board team, 2) a second staff person is aware of what is happening at board meetings (backup), and 3) it is much easier to recruit a Board Secretary. Perhaps the Board Secretary will take on some of the important, but often overlooked, aspects of that role.

In Cincinnati, I was part of a panel discussion on board leadership for Business on Board, a board training program hosted by the Fine Arts Fund. I joined Rick Pender, Director of Development, for the Cincinnati Opera and Caitlin Wood, Director of External Relations, for Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati on this panel, facilitated by Mike Boberg from the Fine Arts Fund.

Thoughts and ideas that caught my attention:

• The Opera strives to create a “family feel” on their board. The result is that the 80 members know each other and look forward to doing things together. Each member must make a specified annual gift.

• Your best new board members will come from the people who already know you and get excited about your work or potential.

• We assume our new and current board members must know how to present our organization since they don’t ask. Train, Train, Train

• It is critical for new board members to know why they, specifically, were recruited and how you expect them, specifically, to participate.

What are your thoughts? What are you experiencing?

Monday, January 19, 2009

What are You Experiencing?

- NFP News – January 20 and 22, 2009

Last week, I was fortunate to be able to join two groups of nonprofit leaders in discussing a range of nonprofit topics, including board development and fund raising. By inviting you into some of these discussions, I hope you will also find some new ideas and share yours with us.

I joined a group of senior fund raisers in Indianapolis to discuss issues within their organizations and the community, hosted at Gleaners.

Thoughts and ideas that caught my attention:
• All of the organizations represented had seen a strong fourth quarter of donations. A primary concern is that overwhelming negative press about the economy could decrease giving in 2009.
• Though some capital campaigns are being delayed others are moving forward with good results and positive expectations.
• In larger organizations, it makes a huge difference whether they use a current endowment asset balance or a rolling three years to define endowment withdrawals.
• Some are seeing much stronger on-line giving
• Corporate giving is not as strong as it has been
• “Slacker Tracker” is a fun term for a person on your leadership team/board who takes responsibility for holding people accountable for what they have agreed to do.

In Cincinnati, I was invited to be part of a panel discussion for Business on Board, a board training program hosted by the Fine Arts Fund. I joined Rick Pender, Director of Development, for the Cincinnati Opera and Caitlin Wood, Director of External Relations, for Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati on this panel, facilitated by Mike Boberg from the Fine Arts Fund.

Thoughts and ideas that caught my attention:
• People who really care about your work will still support it.
• This is a time to get great deals on advertising through most media.
• In-kind gifts are easier to get from hotels or other businesses that have assets sitting unused.
• It takes more integrity to cut a program than to compromise quality and hope no one notices.
• Mid-sized nonprofit organizations might struggle most in a tight economy because they don’t have as many staff or programs that can be cut and have not yet developed the endowments, reserves, or fund raising clout of a larger organization. Small organizations are more accustomed to living on the edge, surviving on passion, and may find it easier to “step back” to their roots to weather the storm.
• When looking for places to increase revenue and decrease expenses, invite leaders of similar organizations to review your organization and go help review theirs. You will be surprised how many things are staffed or done “because we always have”, not “because we have to”.
• How should a board member respond when the staff comes back with – “We have made all the cuts we can”? From a long-time Executive Director – “There are always more cuts that can be made, but the trade-offs and consequences increase with every cut. Staff should always be able to come back with a plan for more cuts plus some ideas to increase revenue.”

The messages they are conveying to donors:
• We are looking ahead and planning the use of funds responsibly
• We fully expect to be here for the long-term but need your support right now.
• We will not compromise the quality of our programs

What are your thoughts? What are you experiencing?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nonprofits Should Act More Like Businesses?

NFP News – Jan 13 and 15

In light of so many nonprofits being concerned about declining or potentially declining revenues, I saw an interesting article by Steve Watkins in the January 2nd, 2009 Cincinnati Business Courier. The focus of the article, entitled “Chief Rescue Officer”, was on professional consultants or managers who are brought in as “turnaround” experts when business owners need help. I found many of the comments very applicable to our circumstances in the nonprofit community and thought they might inspire your thinking as well.

Comments from Leonard Eppel, President of Financial Resource Associates Inc.:

· It’s been difficult to find solutions because people have waited so long. Our options are more limited than they have been in the past.

· He is seeing some problems so late that the only solutions are to sell or liquidate the business. That’s never been that way before. The downturn has caught a lot of people in shock mode.

· We teach businesses to plan for their cash flow. One client now routinely runs 12 week projections of cash needs.

· Some businesses don’t recognize they are bending over backwards to serve customers and have to realize they can’t afford to give dramatically more than what they are being paid for.

· He tells business owners that the key now is to manage to the current situation, not what they hope the economy will do. Project revenues conservatively. Plan manpower based on revenues.

Comments from Don Feldmann, President and CEO of Winton Associates, a capital advisory firm:

· Financing is hard to get. That puts a premium on identifying problems early.

· A common pitfall: Don’t cut back on marketing and sales.

· Some businesses realize they don’t know why their customers buy from them so they don’t know how to continue sales in tougher times.

· Sometimes, cutting costs means laying people off – that’s tough for many owners. One trick is to set a date by which you will cut people if things don’t improve to a predetermined point. Then find someone who will hold you to that date.

· Company owners don’t know all their costs in many cases and should track every expense.

Read full article http://cincinnati.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2009/01/05/smallb1.html?b=1231131600^1754913

How does this strike you? Can you see some parallels? We would love to get your feedback.