Sunday, July 26, 2009

Leveraging Social Media?

Mark Buzan is back with us again on that topic that is all the media. Do you know that in the last six months Facebook has exploded with older users, cause groups, politicians and Nonprofits? I just keep finding Facebook to fascinate. I like the way it pushes information out at me and how I can push information out to my "friends." Mark explores how you can use social media to keep your organization in the communications loop, recruit new members and even fundraise. Bunnie

Leveraging Social Media?

(Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and podcasts - what are all these internet forums and are they really applicable to non-profits?)

by Mark Buzan, Action Strategies

Interestingly, it is the internet’s depth and vastness that mystifies many association executives. Sadly, I hear many associations express veiled excuses for not involving social media in their outreach efforts. Commonly thought of as the domain of Gen-Yers, and twenty-somethings, social media and internet viral marketing offer practical and sensible applications for all audiences. Social media strategy depends from case to case and will require an investment of time. Used correctly, social media can:

· Build networks and community, connect and mobilize members on the key issues confronting your association
· Build a donor base and gather emails
· Tell your story –Put a face and a personality to your organization
· Share information and resources quickly
· Promote brand and cause

If carried out correctly, viral web marketing techniques can be very effective in boosting your member list and getting your organization’s name and message out. Many non-profits are using “Tell a friend” buttons or links on their websites and email newsletters. Whether used for connecting or recruiting members and donors, and developing advocacy can take different channels through the various goals sought.

Recruiting members and soliciting donations:

The very essence of making online “friends” and developing a base of followers through social media extends this ability far beyond the reach of the amount of people or prospects you could physically reach in one day. With one of my charitable clients, the Success Factory, we have just begun an online campaign through Facebook to raise money and build word-of-mouth awareness for its employment training programs. Using the “Causes” application, Facebook is allowing board members and staff of this brand new organization in one full sweep to: 1.) Demonstrate the mission of the Success Factory, 2.) Engage other Facebook members to recruit their friends as supporters of the cause, and 4.) Allow a forum of communication for Success Factory supporters, thereby spawning the creation of new innovative ideas.

Facilitating communication between association staff, members, supporters and the board
The concept of sharing ongoing association business with the entire world on Facebook is less than appealing. To answer this situation, there are social media options such as and Google Friend Connect that can create either a separate network for an association or integrate social networking elements right within an association’s website. The Canadian Table Soccer Association is one association that has effectively utilized Ning ( as an opportunity for members to connect, share ideas, and announce events.

Within an association website, there are means a communications team can take to ensure that it remains current and relevant for members. Using Google Friend Connect, a free set of customizable tools offered by Google, associations can embed html code within their website that easily invites friends from social networks and contact lists to visit and join your site.

If associations are not blogging, they need to begin. Integrating a blog into your web presence provides regular information for members and board to follow. For those associations less inclined towards a full blog, Twitter comes to the rescue offering a micro-blog option. Creating an account is free and each blog entry is limited to 140 characters. As a result, your association’s ability to be found in search engines is increased.

Building recognition with the Media and Influential Bloggers

The internet is crawling with bloggers on issues as vast as the internet itself. Social media also changes the presence of how non-profits present information to journalists. With the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), I have been working their media relations and internet teams to promote collaboration between these two fields. Journalists will also be kept up to date with every story development of via an RSS subscribe option. Even the delivery of traditional press releases changes with social media. Instead of the typical boiler plate press release, a photo was embedded along with clickable links over to the organization’s website. To best ensure the internet is leveraged as a communications vehicle, make sure the message you devise is clear, well presented, and easy-to-follow. This includes replying to personal messages and posting constant updates. Online profiles can be time-consuming, but their targeted visibility is unparalleled.

Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. His blog can be found at:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nonprofit Supporters Find Ways to Give Without Giving During This Economic Downturn

I get inundated with companies trying that sell to Nonprofits. I'm flattered that they look to Nonprofit Conversation as a way to reach their targeted markets, however, I am not inclined to promote goods and services just for the sake of doing so. When I got contacted by Aviva Schick of, I spent quite a bit of time on their website to determine if this was a worthwhile avenue for Nonprofits. The thing that I found was that Goodsearch lists companies that I use frequently. For instance, had I booked my stay at the Holiday Inn in Omaha next week through Goodsearch, Holiday Inn would have donated 1.5% of my room rental to a Nonprofit of my choice. And do you know how much I spend at HomeDepot each year? Well, 2% of my online purchases would go to a charity of my choice. I say spend some time exploring this resource. Bunnie Riedel

Nonprofit Supporters Find Ways to Give Without Giving
During This Economic Downturn

by Aviva Schick,

Declining contributions from traditional donors cause nonprofits to get creative, turning to services such as to raise funds without asking their supporters for money.

When the economy weakens, charitable organizations are often the hardest hit. Fear has led to a national drop in charitable contributions making it harder for non-profits to keep up with an increased demand in services. As more and more nonprofits begin to feel the pinch, many are refocusing their fundraising efforts.

One standout pair of solutions – and – allows supporters to give to their favorite organizations without spending a dime. is the Yahoo-powered search engine that donates about a penny per search to the charity or school of the users’ choice. Similarly, GoodShop donates a percentage of every purchase from more than 1,000 top online retailers to the nonprofit the user selects.

Over 80,000 nonprofits and schools across the country are actively earning funds from the GoodSearch and GoodShop strategy with over 100 organizations submitting new applications daily. Success stories range from the ASPCA which has earned more than $27,500 to care for animals to the Bubel Aiken Foundation which has earned more than $11,500 to send disabled children to summer camp. is the Yahoo! powered search engine which donates about a penny per search to the charity of the users’ choice. You use it exactly as you would any other search engine, but each time you do a search, approximately a penny goes to your cause. The pennies add up – just 500 people searching four times a day will generate about $7300 in a year. And, as the money comes from the GoodSearch advertisers, it does not cost the nonprofit or its supporters a dime! is the new online shopping mall that donates a percentage of your online purchase to the charity or school of your choice. There are more than 1,000 popular online merchants participating and the experience of shopping through GoodShop is the same as going to the retailer directly. You can even save money with the hundred of coupons that we have listed!

Nonprofits report that GoodSearch and GoodShop are not only a source of significant donations, but also an effective way for supporters to feel connected to the organization everyday. Especially in this time of recession, even small donations go a long way and every extra dollar counts. ABC News recently praised these sites as “Fast and Easy Philanthropy.”

GoodSearch and GoodShop have grown into a massive grassroots movement online, attracting the attention of leaders in the nonprofit industry, students, bloggers, writers, and even celebrities like Jessica Biel, Montell Williams, and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 who have all created videos on behalf of their favorite charities and GoodSearch.

The GoodSearch and GoodShop team is revolutionizing online philanthropy so that no one is denied the opportunity to support the causes most important to them. “When the economy weakens, charitable organizations are often the hardest hit,” said Ken Ramberg, Co-Founder of GoodSearch and former President of MonsterTRAK, the largest online career site for college students (now a division of “GoodSearch and GoodShop are helping to alleviate that strain in resources and make it possible for everyone regardless of how much time or money they have, to give back.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Cat Network Finds New Ways to Thrive

There must be a special place in heaven for people who rescue animals. I asked the question, "What are you doing to cope with financial challenges?" Jill Steinberg, Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Cat Network, Inc. wrote back. Often, here on Nonprofit Conversation, we feature big Nonprofits with big ideas and every so often, I like to feature small, local Nonprofits who are tackling the world's problems one person, animal or issue at a time. The Cat Network in Miami rescues cats, provides spay, neuter and adoption services. And they are amazingly creative in their fundraising efforts! If you are in the Miami area, give them a hand, donate to this cause or adopt one of their lovely foster cats. Bunnie

The Cat Network Finds New Ways to Thrive
by Jill Steinberg, Secretary of the Board, Cat Network, Inc.


The Cat Network, Inc, is using social media to promote our mission to spay/neuter feral and stray cats as well as to adopt cats.

We have helped the public spay and neuter over 50,00 cats and have adopted out over 6500 cats to the public.

Without the use of Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, I could never achieve getting more members giving as easily as we have in the last 4 months. With two challenges, we will have raised over $4000 in 4 months and added about 100 new members to our non profit group. We also have added JustGive Donation buttons and are currently working on adding PayPal and Signing up for Mission Fish/Giving Works to do EBAY auctions. I have also been able to connect to other people in small non-profit animal welfare groups and we have shared ideas on grants, donations, and web presence.

We have also partnered with the Humane Society of Greater Miami and Miami Dade Animal Services to get maximum penetration to our target audience

Since we are so hands on as a board and we have no Executive Director, only volunteers, we do everything except the vetting ourselves.

We have a van, known as the Miami Meow Mobile which is manned by local vets as well as using certificates for our Spay/Neuter Program

We have various fund raisers during the year, Toast to Cat Network(for our large donors); Pet Fest(for the public) and various small fundraisers at our adoption venues.

We have recently partnered with a retail chain that will give us 10% of the proceeds of the day we are there showing our cats. It averages about $250 each time we are there and we can go once a month thus hopefully netting about $2000 for this venue and also hopefully being able to adopt more cats to the public

We have also partnered with the cities in Miami Dade County for more exposure.

One of the things, remarkably that has helped us was the Cat Killings in Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay, here in Miami. We were involved in disseminating information to the public and we received numerous amounts of publicity around the world for our involvement.
Jill can be reached

Friday, July 17, 2009

Get a Policy Before You Chase Sponsor Dollars

How many times have I heard "We'll get a sponsor for that!" Often there seems to be a common belief that sponsors are like apples falling off a tree, just waiting to be thrown in a basket and taken home. We all know the pie is shrinking as people and organizations realize less from their investments. Now is a good time to be as intentional as possible about your sponsor program. Bob Crawshaw of Mainstreet Marketing (Australia) provides some global thinking on things an organization should do before going after sponsors.

Bob wrote me an email to tell me I could take the liberty of "americanizing" his spelling of certain words, but I prefer to leave it just as is because Nonprofit Conversation is now read in 65 countries and I am hoping we will have more international contributors to this blog! Bunnie

Get a Policy Before You Chase Sponsorship Dollars
by Bob Crawshaw, Maine Street Marketing

It’s tough times for not for profits and community groups everywhere are looking for revenue to keep the doors open and the lights on.

Australian groups are no exception. Many are facing increasingly tough times as people have second thoughts about where to spend their charity dollar – if in fact they have a spare dollar for a worthy cause.

Our PR agency in Australia’s national capital, Canberra, has provided free marketing support to 183 not for profits in the past five years. And we find a common reaction of groups with shrinking budgets is to say “let’s get a sponsor”. Across the not for profit sector the search is on for a large corporate to help fund something significant down to a small business to provide valuable in-kind support.

Since 2004 we have noticed very few medium sized not for profits and certainly most smaller ones lack a sponsorship policy. It seems the cupboard is bare when it comes to clear intent about their sponsorship ambitions.

Our workshops have always encouraged charities and community service organizations to set out a simple sponsorship policy to guide their efforts. Now the competition for the corporate cheque book is so fierce it is mandatory to have a sponsorship policy. It could be the one thing that separates fund raising success from failure.

The first step really belongs to your CEO and Board. They must set clear policy guidelines. They must also be right behind all sponsorship efforts and personally willing to devote their energies to the business of winning donors.

A sponsorship policy begins by clearly stating why your organisation wants outside funding and should explicitly state:

The types of large and small organisations to approach?
Which organisations to avoid, such as those associated with tobacco, alcohol, adult services, the arms trade and of course the environmental polluters.

What is the sponsorship property you are selling? Be crystal clear about what you’re offering.

How and where you will use the funds or services sponsorship brings in.

What benefits you plan to offer in return for sponsorship and are you willing to negotiate these?

Is there a budget to attract sponsorship, for example to travel to other cities to woo likely suitors?

Who in your organisation approves sponsorship arrangements?

Time limits on any sponsorship.

Who is responsible for servicing the sponsor and doing all the detailed work once the cheques are handed over?

I know that is a big list. But it’s better to think of these key issues now before your sponsorship marketing is in full swing.

Bob Crawshaw runs Maine Street Marketing.He began his communications career as the Australian Army's first Director of Public Affairs. He helps organizations with limited time and budgets get maximum community impact. Bob blogs PR at

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Not-for-Profit Director's Checklist

The last few weeks have carried a theme of "due diligence." Due diligence when considering taking a job as an Executive Director. Due diligence when seeking Board Members. And now, Janet Bandera offers a detailed list of the kind of due diligence prospective Board Members should conduct when considering serving on a Nonprofit Board. This should be required reading for all potential Board Members, regardless of the size of the organization. Remember, as a Board Member you carry liability and responsibility for the organization. Bunnie

A Not-for-Profit Director's Checklist
by Janet Nava Bandera, Managing Principal, Bandera Law Firm

The question is: What does a good board member do? Raise money? Stuff envelopes?

In seeking to answer that question for others, I have begun to answer it for myself. A good board member helps the organization stay focused on its mission. Thus, the most important job of all board members is to be informed and to govern. So, what do we need to know? The search for this answer has resulted in the following work-in-progress.

The Checklist

Before undertaking his or her role, each potential board member must review the background, history and related details of a nonprofit organization (“NFP”). The following are some issues to consider prior to accepting a position and during your term.

Exempt Purpose

In order to qualify under Code Sec. 501(c)(3), the NFP’s exempt purpose must be stated in the organizing document. A director is measured by the success or failure of the pursuit of accomplishing this exempt purpose. A director is also measured by the course taken by the organization in getting there. Thus, it is important to review the NFP’s activities to determine whether they are consistent with the purpose set out in its organizing documents.

Organizational Details and Documentation

After you find that the mission of the organization resonates with you, you’ll want to know whether it can accomplish the mission. The first questions are who are the people guiding the way; what skills and experience does each contribute; and is the foundation for effectively accomplishing the mission in place? The devil is in the details: So what are the details? The following is not an exhaustive list; it is meant to alert the conscientious prospective board member that he or she has a duty to the organization that goes beyond lending a name and/or raising money or having fun.

What is the organization’s stated purpose?

Review the Application for Exemption (IRS Form 1023) and the Mission Statement. Is the organization a corporation or a trust; who formed it and when? Review the Articles of Incorporation or trust agreement. Have Bylaws been adopted? Review the Bylaw and any amendments. How many directors are there and what do they do? Have there been changes in the directors; how are they appointed; how often do they meet; how many are a quorum; how many are required to approve actions; are adequate records of their actions kept? Review the Bylaws, resolutions and minutes.

Have the required state and federal annual reports been filed?

Check with the Secretary of State and ask to see copies of both the state annual report and the federally mandated annual report.

Have the tax returns been filed and any taxes paid?

Who prepares/reviews the tax returns; are you prepared to review them; is there someone other than the person in charge of payroll verifying that all withholdings are deducted and forwarded to state and federal authorities?

Where are the organization's records kept?

Each director should have a general knowledge of the books and records. Are independent audits performed to ensure accuracy? If not, is someone charged with oversight of the record keeper? Ask where they are and who is overseeing this function.

Does the organization provide insurance to directors?

What are the policy limits; what is the deductible; who pays the deductible; do the bylaws include indemnity provisions? Ask to see the insurance policy.

Does the organization have other necessary insurance?

This includes property insurance; what about acts or injuries to third parties, riders for large events, appropriate environmental indemnities if property is or was purchased? Ask to see the insurance policy.

Has the board adopted a Conflict of Interest Policy?

An NFP must adopt and review on an annual basis its conflict of interest policy. Our state law defines a conflict of interest transaction as “a transaction with the corporation in which a director of the corporation has a material interest” each state will have its own definition. Ask for a copy of the Policy.

Has the board adopted a Code of Ethics?

Although not required, a Code of Ethics Policy is a sign that the board and its members have carefully considered their responsibilities, wish to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations and promote the organization’s purpose with the highest integrity. Ask for a copy of the Policy.

Is there a budget? How is the budget determined?

Are directors expected to actively participate in budgeting or merely review the budget annually? Ask to see the budget. Who is managing the organization’s money? When considering the board appointment, be aware of whether directors participate in reviewing financial statements. Consider how much experience this will require. Will you understand if the organization has made poor investment choices or has excess business holdings? Do you understand issues such as the meaning of unrelated business taxable income (UBIT) which may subject the organization to additional tax? If not, is there someone who does charged with this responsibility? Ask who this person is and their qualifications.

Who reviews distributions and expenses?

Each director should be prepared to actively review any grants, loans and distributions to outside organizations to ensure that such distributions further the organization’s exempt purpose and that adequate records are kept.

Are there employees, and who sets their compensation?

Employee compensation is an important issue. The organization should follow the recommended practices provided in IRS Form 1023 when setting compensation. The amount paid by similarly situated organizations for similar services, current salary surveys compiled by independent firms and written offers from other organizations are all general guidelines in setting
compensation. The individuals responsible for setting the compensation level should also follow the organization’s confl ict of interest policy. It is advisable that the compensation be approved in advance and documented in writing when it is approved. It is also advisable to document in writing the identity of the directors who voted on the compensation. Review the minutes as to how compensation was determined.

Does the organization strive to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley?

Sarbanes-Oxley says that it applies to companies that have registered equity or debt securities with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in order for the securities to be publicly traded. Most nonprofit organizations have never issued registered securities and since no nonprofit ever issues publicly traded equity securities, one would tend to think that nonprofits are exempt. However, it is important that an NFP recognize the implications and understand how it will be affected. New GAO independence standards are similar to parts of Sarbanes-Oxley. These apply to, and were recently implemented for, the auditors of organizations that receive federal funding. These regulations already require many firms to comply with quite restrictive independence requirements.

That’s the end of my basic checklist for now. Stay tuned for refinements, lessons learned, mistakes overcome and triumphs. In the interim, the Internet is full of free information for and about the governance of NFPs.

Janet Nava Bandera, J.D., is the Managing Principal of the Bandera Law Firm, P.C. Ms. Bandera is engaged in the practice of law specializing in estate planning, charitable giving and asset protection for high–net-worth individuals. She serves on the boards of several charitable organizations and is a regular speaker for local and national financial planning fi rms. She can be reached in St. Louis, Missouri at (314) 691-4386 and in Lake Ozark, Missouri at (573) 365-9779, or at This article appeared in the Journal of Practical Estate Planning and is provided here with the author's permission.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Due Diligence on Recruiting Board Members

Most Nonprofit board members serve as volunteers without pay. And frequently, it is difficult to find people who are willing to give the time, effort and financial support that is required of a Nonprofit board. Often Nonprofits settle for finding just "warm bodies" to fill board seats. Margie Morris highlights why it is important to conduct "due diligence" when seeking board members. Important subject...thanks Margie! Bunnie

Due Diligence on Recruiting Board Members

by Margie Morris, President, Morris Ink

Creating the ideal composition for a dynamic board requires a purposeful strategy and thoughtful intent. Too often, desperate nominating committees work to fill slots rather than further mission. It’s a phenomenon that volunteer management expert Marlene Wilson calls “The Buffalo Bill Theory.” We simply try to lasso the ones who are standing by, perhaps because they are too uninformed or too lazy to run away.

A common mistake occurs when executive directors recommend their best friends, hoping for an “easy” board. Without financial expertise, a generous range of perspectives and an appropriate distinction between governance and management, board meetings can quickly become social gatherings or quick gatherings where each deliberation is perfunctory and decisions rubber stamped.

Every organization with a board needs specific outcomes from those who serve, whether it is influence, ethnic diversity, a range of skills, or representatives from a geographic area. As more collaborations are established to increase effectiveness, agencies look for assistance from likely partners. Some are mandated to include family members of clients or clients themselves. Whatever the needs, every board member should fill at least one of them.

Rather than making recruitment more problematic, finding the right person for the job narrows the search. Additionally, new board members are much more likely to say yes when approached professionally, with regard for their skills and experience, and an evident return on investment for the agency and for themselves.

A board that knows itself and the organization – how goals for the year will be reached and the mission furthered – understands that consistent agreement among members isn’t necessarily a good thing. Respectful discussion, the generation of new ideas, and an insistence on transparency and accountability strengthen boards and the agencies they serve.

The best board members are those who are chosen for a reason and who accept their responsibility with a clear understanding of what is expected and how they can contribute.

Contact Margie at margiem at

Monday, July 6, 2009

Professional Development Through Peer Engagement

Norman Olshansky says Nonprofit work can often be lonely. I couldn't agree more. Many times Nonprofit leaders find "community" in local clubs (such as Rotary), but still experience a disconnect because a majority of those involved in such groups are for-profit business owners. I like the idea of Nonprofit leaders forming smaller peer professional network groups like Norman describes. Maybe this is an idea for you in your community. Bunnie

Professional Development Through Peer Engagement
by Norman Olshansky, President, NFP Consulting Resources

A true professional is always looking for ways to improve their practice, to be more effective and to keep abreast of new trends which could affect their work. Nonprofit professional work can often be lonely, with few opportunities to exchange ideas with others who have similar backgrounds and responsibilities. While there are many online networks and professional associations, they are usually accessed from a “distance” and opportunities to attend conferences and seminars, for face to face exchanges are often limited due to distance and cost.

Some have found mentors with whom they can truly let their hair down and confidentially discuss the issues and challenges they face professionally and personally as part of their nonprofit work. Unfortunately, too few are able to engage in such a relationship.

For many years I have been intrigued by The Executive Committee (TEC) groups within the for profit world. TEC has been around since 1957. Its successor organization is Vistage International. (

Groups of CEO’s or other similarly employed corporate executives are assigned a facilitator/coach who meets with the group monthly for a full day and with each individual member of the group in between group meetings for a two hour session. The facilitator/coach is also available by phone and email for support. Groups also participate in multiple workshops during the year with expert Vistage resource speakers.

Needless to say, the program is expensive. They charge about $12,000/year per participant. Wouldn’t it be helpful if we created a similar model for the nonprofit sector, (but less involved and expensive). Why couldn’t a local Nonprofit Executive Group, Fundraising, CFO, Grantwriting, Marketing or other focus group of professionals be formed in your city or region?Individuals who participate should be serious about wanting to learn and grow and be willing/able to take the time necessary to participate.

Each group should be no larger than 8-10 individuals. While we may not need to be as time intensive as the TEC groups, participants should make the commitment of time and engagement a high priority, if it is to be successful. The participants learn from each other in addition to the input from the coach/facilitator. Speakers can be brought into the group meetings periodically to focus on areas the group wants to address. The group members bond with each other and are in touch with each other between meetings for additional supports and help with problem solving.

The participants determine what needs to be discussed, what skills and resources can be shared and what topics should be covered. Topics often go beyond best practice exchanges, skill development and/or knowledge subjects. The groups can be helpful with each other on issues related to personnel, interpersonal relations, time management, supervision, self motivation and so much more. Sessions can cover any or all aspects of nonprofit leadership and management based upon the needs of the participants. Ground rules for participation need to be developed and enforced related to attendance, who can participate, doing homework, confidentiality and financial commitment.

Ideally the group should hire a facilitator/consultant to provide leadership, organize sessions and guest speakers. The ideal facilitator/consultant could also act as a coach, be in touch with participants between meetings and enhance the quality of participation based on their own expertise and reputation within the nonprofit community. The cost of the facilitator/consultant could be shared by the participants.

Given the value of such groups, local foundations/funders may see this as a tremendous opportunity to promote capacity building and professional leadership development.Whether it be though ongoing mentoring, coaching or “TEC” style experiences, professional development needs to be a high priority for all of us involved professionally within the nonprofit sector.

You can contact Norman at Nfpconsultingresources at See his blog at