Friday, November 26, 2010

Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice

There are two things I really, really like!  Finding excellent nonprofit resource materials and then finding out they are free!  While the "Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations" was originally published by the Independent Sector in 2007, the "Priniciples" remain the same. 

There are four sections to the guide:

  1. Legal Compliance and Public Disclosure
  2. Effective Governance
  3. Strong Financial Oversight
  4. Responsible Fundraising
You can download the entire document for free at the Independent Sector website.  I urge you to download it and share it with your Board of Directors.  Consider it a check list for best practices.  The following is from the first section, Legal Compliance and Public Disclosure.  Enjoy!  Bunnie

  • A charitable organization must comply with all applicable federal laws and regulations, as well as applicable laws and regulations of the states and the local jurisdictions in which it is based or operates. If the organization conducts programs outside the United States, it must also abide by applicable international laws, regulations and conventions that are legally binding on the United States.

  • A charitable organization should have a formally adopted, written code of ethics with which all of its directors or trustees, staff and volunteers are familiar and to which they adhere.

  • A charitable organization should adopt and implement policies and procedures to ensure that all conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof, within the organization and the board are appropriately managed through disclosure, recusal, or other means.

  • A charitable organization should establish and implement policies and procedures that enable individuals to come forward with information on illegal practices or violations of organizational policies. This “whistleblower” policy should specify that the organization will not retaliate against, and will protect the confidentiality of, individuals who make good-faith reports.

  • A charitable organization should establish and implement policies and procedures to protect and preserve the organization’s important documents and business records.

  • A charitable organization’s board should ensure that the organization has adequate plans to protect its assets—its property, financial and human resources, programmatic content and material, and its integrity and reputation—against damage or loss. The board should review regularly the organization’s need for general liability and directors’ and officers’ liability insurance, as well as take other actions necessary to mitigate risks.

  • A charitable organization should make information about its operations, including its governance, finances, programs and activities, widely available to the public. Charitable organizations also should consider making information available on the methods they use to evaluate the outcomes of their work and sharing the results of those evaluations.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Videoconferencing for Nonprofits

You've thought about it and whether or not it could work for your conferencing replacing in-person meetings.  How can you properly convey important information when you aren't in the room?  Video conferencing has come a long way in the last few years as broadband has been deployed.  And if you're not videoconferencing at least some meetings, maybe now is the time to take a serious look at its advantages (economic and social) and whether a video conference model is right for you.  Bunnie

Video Conferencing for Nonprofits
by Arron Brown, Editor of

The downturn in the economy is very much upon us, small, medium and large nonprofits continue to struggle during these drawn-out and daunting times. Nonprofits have struggled particularly, and have come up against their toughest challenges yet. The constant need to tighten budgets and employees has become standard practice within many nonprofits. With nationwide cuts and reduced public activity, many nonprofits have had to act swiftly to ensure that their organizations can carry on with their day-to-day duties as normal.

Many organizations within the nonprofit sector are likely to have their offices spread across Europe and in some cases, the globe. Due to funding and budgets being cut, due to the economic downturn, nonprofits have found it increasingly difficult to travel to their other sectors for important meetings and conferences. However, due to the recent introduction of web based onferencing software this allows the nonprofit to effectively connect with members and donors anywhere in the world, using the internet. This allows them to significantly save on large travel fees, whilst being able to speak to key members of their organization. There are numerous advantages to a non-profit organization when using web based video conferencing, some of which are as follows;

- Cater to the unique needs of staff members; allow staff to be more productive, by being able to work remotely or collaborate with other staff members

- Keep volunteers updated; Train and organize volunteers upon upcoming issues and events within the organization.

- Brief the community; Allow society members to be regularly updated with company news and broadcasts.

While video conferencing is still the most expensive of all electronic conferencing options, costs have decreased substantially since the beginning of the 21st century. This has made it possible for non-profit organizations to use this communication resource more frequently, and still remain within their budgets. This includes the cost of video conferencing equipment, site certifications at conference room sites, and the conference fees that apply during a live conference. In the years to come, more innovations in electronic communications will likely reduce the cost even further, making this resource even more cost efficient for organizations of all types and sizes.

By incorporating video conferencing within a nonprofit organization, they can be rest-assured that their costs will be significantly reduced, not only this but, productivity within the organization will be much more effective. Neighboring communities and societies will also feel much less pressure without the need of travelling hundreds of miles for important meetings and discussions.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Department of Justice Issues Rulemaking Notice on Mandatory Website Accessibility for the Disabled

Website accessibility is important for nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations.  In the United States, our Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all governmental or private entities that open their doors to the public be accessible, and that includes their websites.  However, the notion of accessibility should be an important subject for nonprofits throughout the world.  According to the New York based Disabled in Action, 18% of people have a disability with 12% reporting a severe disability.  Internet accessibility is especially important to those who have visual or auditory disabilities.  And this becomes even more critical as populations age.  So while this article from the law firm Venable is United States centric, I hope it gives our international readers ideas for making their online presence even more friendly to disabled populations.  Bunnie

Department of Justice Issues Rulemaking Notice on Mandatory Website Accessibility for the Disabled
by George W. Johnston, James Edward Fagan, III and
Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently reiterated its intent to enforce website accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DOJ is focusing on ensuring that covered entities provide ready access for the disabled to their websites. In short, the ADA accessibility rules cover any entities (governmental or private) that open their doors to the public, including nonprofit organizations, places of lodging, retailers, restaurants, medical facilities, banks, local governments, and schools, among others. Any nonprofit with a public website is directly affected by theses accessibility rules. The DOJ has consistently maintained the position that websites operated by covered entities are “public accommodations,” and recent court decisions have supported this view. The courts have reasoned that websites serve as extensions of, and invitations to, the physical structures that serve as more traditional public accommodations.
and Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum

 The DOJ has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for public accommodation websites and has promised increased enforcement and heightened scrutiny of public and private websites. Through the public comment process, the DOJ seeks input on such matters as barriers to website accessibility, coverage limitations of the ADA, cost of compliance on small organizations and the need for increased DOJ enforcement. While the DOJ will solicit comments over the next several months before it issues final regulations, now is the time for entities covered by the upcoming rules to address any accessibility issues on their websites.

Nonprofit organizations should review their website content and design for accessibility by individuals with disabilities, including visual, motor and cognitive impairments. For example, web designers should be employed to provide text descriptions for visual content that is compatible with assistive technology (braille and screen readers) used by the blind. Web design should be consistent and easy to navigate, and all video and audio should be captioned and should minimize the use of color cues. Online recruitment and hiring capabilities should conform to all ADA standards as well.

In addition, website content should include a full description of how your organization provides full access to the disabled at its physical locations. Architectural and engineering compliance should be fully explained and all online purchasing opportunities should be available to persons with disabilities. Any barriers to, or limitations upon, accessibility should be fully disclosed. For example, a travel industry association should consider counseling its members to provide informative descriptions of access limitations for all facilities it recommends to the public. Similarly, retail industry associations should describe best practices to its member stores that regularly host the public.

Failure to comply with the new regulations may leave a covered entity exposed to damages and other compliance measures initiated by the DOJ, as well as lawsuits by individuals under the ADA. Venable attorneys will be monitoring DOJ’s rulemaking, as well as legal developments in the legislative and judicial arenas.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The State of the Nonprofit Industry (SONI) Survey

Two weeks ago, I had the good fortune of attending the "Better Together" Conference sponsored by Blackbaud.  There were over 2,200 people at the conference.  During the conference I attended a press event in which a few results of The State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey were reviewed.  I found it interesting that such a broad survey could be conducted (worldwide) and that there could be found "global" trends in nonprofit management.  Given the cultural and social differences between us, the nonprofit community is unique as a unifier worldwide!  And, we all face similar challenges when it comes to accomplishing our mission.  Bunnie

The State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey
from a Press Release by Melanie Mathos, Public Relations Manager, Blackbaud

Blackbaud, Inc. (Nasdaq: BLKB) today announced the release of the results from The State of the Nonprofit Industry (SONI) Survey, a global report covering general operations, fundraising, technology and Internet usage, and accountability and stewardship. Responses were received from 2,383 individuals in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The survey was conducted in partnership with L’Association Fran├žaise des Fundraisers, the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ), the German Fundraising Association, Philanthropy Centro Studi, and the Resource Alliance.

“There is an increasing interest in the nonprofit sector in improving governance, planning, and fundraising, and investing in training and equipment to enhance organizational performance,” said Amy Comer, Blackbaud’s director of market research. “Blackbaud has conducted the State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey for six years to provide an overview of trends that can help nonprofits assess their operations and compare their performance with other organizations.”

Four global trends that emerged from the data include:

1. New fundraising and communication channels, although growing, are not replacing traditional channels.

Most organizations continue to leverage traditional channels, even while they are increasingly using new interactive channels. This use of new channels is placing a tremendous strain on organizations because revenue has not risen significantly in aggregate and yet costs for each communication channel have risen. This situation creates a demand for more integrated communication tools and database platforms.

2. ROI and organizational effectiveness are under scrutiny and more important than ever.

Baby boomers, which have entered their prime giving years in the United States, are not as trusting of government and institutions to solve problems and want to see greater evidence. However, this trend is clearly not just a United States phenomenon. Donors worldwide want to see evidence that their money is being spent well and that nonprofits are being run as efficiently as possible.

3. There is a new focus on the total supporter journey vs. traditional “donor management.”

In light of an increased focus on donor retention coupled with increasing costs for acquisition, constituent relationship management (CRM) is transitioning from transactional fundraising to a relationship-focused supporter journey. To have a constituent-centric focus, nonprofits need to consolidate data on supporters and eliminate silos so everyone in the organization has the same view of the many ways supporters interact with their organization. Technology is essential for helping them track the supporter journey, from service recipient to volunteer to event participant to donor.

4. Fundraising is emerging as a widely-recognized profession around the globe.

The vast majority of nonprofits around the world are expecting to increase their investment in fundraising staff, according to the SONI survey. It is clear that fundraising is no longer someone’s “part-time” responsibility. Techniques and data are becoming more complex, and the rate of change is increasing. What was once mostly art is rapidly becoming science, requiring new tools and techniques, partnerships, and better skilled staff.

To download the complete report, which includes an in-depth look at general operations, fundraising, technology and Internet usage, and accountability and stewardship around the globe, visit State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey
About Blackbaud
Blackbaud is the leading global provider of software and services designed specifically for nonprofit organizations, enabling them to improve operational efficiency, build strong relationships, and raise more money to support their missions. Approximately 24,000 organizations — including University of Arizona Foundation, American Red Cross, Cancer Research UK, The Taft School, Lincoln Center, Tulsa Community Foundation, Ursinus College, Earthjustice, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the WGBH Educational Foundation — use one or more Blackbaud products and services for fundraising, constituent relationship management, financial management, website management, direct marketing, education administration, ticketing, business intelligence, prospect research, consulting, and analytics. Since 1981, Blackbaud’s sole focus and expertise has been partnering with nonprofits and providing them the solutions they need to make a difference in their local communities and worldwide. Headquartered in the United States, Blackbaud also has operations in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit