When I prepare a new recipe for family and friends I always ask them what they thought about it. Often, I hear “it’s a keeper” and sometimes I get “never make that again.” Each person has their own idea of feedback and shares it very enthusiastically. Once I receive their input it’s up to me to decide how to use it. Do I adjust on the ingredients or cook time? Do I trash the recipe or decide I will make it again another time? Or do I ignore what they have said and just keep plugging away the way I want to? Feedback is a gift, but it’s what you do with it once received that’s important.
In the nonprofit world organizations need to know how they are doing. They need to know their strengths and weaknesses. They need to know if they are meeting the needs of their clients. Most importantly then need to know what can be done to improve or expand their services. The only way to do this is to reach out to clients, employees, funders and volunteers to request feedback. From there the organization then needs to collect and interpret the information and act on the results. When this is done, it creates a “feedback loop.”
“Feedback loops are created as an intentional process to ensure organizations are listening to what their clients are saying and second, that they are incorporating those suggestions into the operations and activities.” (Jennifer Chandler, The Power of Feedback). The most critical component of the feedback process is to develop a plan. Using different options to request feedback might include on-line surveys, one on one interviews, or suggestion boxes. But a clear concise plan will make the process impactful and effective.
Melinda T. Tuan suggests starting with designing an effective feedback loop by carefully considering the timing and evaluating the frequency of asking for feedback. From here her article Four Early Lessons Learned in the Quest to Improve Feedback Loops in Philanthropy provides insight on how to collect the data; interpret the information and then close the feedback loop. Take a moment to read her suggestions. They are certainly worth it.
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Bill Gates
The Power of Feedback. Jennifer Chandler. https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/thought-leadership/the-power-of-feedback
Four Early Lessons Learned in the Quest to Improve Feedback Loops in Philanthropy. Melinda T. Tuan. http://www.bethkanter.org/feedback-loops/
The idea of spring cleaning can be overwhelming. During the winter months, it becomes second nature to push everything to the side to tackle another day. There’s so much to do it’s often difficult to know where or how to start. In your home there are closets to clean out, windows to wash and garages to organize. This same phenomenon happens in the nonprofit environment. Areas that have been neglected all need to be spruced up. This is, especially true for the organization's information database.
The agency database is the hub of a nonprofit organization. It houses employee information, donor records, marketing details, templates, mailing data, client data, tax information, forms, and hundreds of other pertinent pieces of information your organization needs to exist. Often the database can be the most neglected component of your agency. Databases get clogged up with inaccurate information, stale templates and outdated donor information. Well spring is here and now is the time to get that database in tip top shape.
While it's easy to recognize your database needs a complete scrubbing, it isn’t always easy to know where to begin. In Bo Crader’s article Spring Cleaning Your Database, he suggests using the following approach to getting started.
Backup: The first step in your database cleanup is to back up your system and test the archive file.
Prioritize: Review your most important constituent information: The records for board and committee members, staff, solicitors, major donors, high-priority prospects and other key individuals. If necessary, solicit new or updated information on these individuals to ensure your organization stays on top of important details.
Analyze: Run a search for duplicate records in your database and merge any redundant records.
Delete: Go ahead and write off long-overdue pledges and delete unused queries, outdated reports and anything else data-entry packrats have kept around “just in case.”
Archive Dated Information: Archive the records for inactive and deceased constituents so they won’t show up in reports, mailings and other queries.
Clean house: Walk through the various departments in your organization, and see where rogue systems and spreadsheets have proliferated. Where possible, migrate these sources into your system of record keeping.
Go to the source: If your database has an inordinate amount of duplicate records, outdated information or other errors, figure out why and adjust to avoid this in the future.
Train: Work with end-users improve the quality of your data. Establish policies and procedures on how the database should be used.
Once your database has been sorted and cleaned up consider doing periodic maintenance to keep thing running smoothly.
*Bo Crader is a founding member of Blackbaud’s interactive services team. He works in various capacities as a business architect, implementation advisor and strategist. Bo has held positions in communications, consulting and business solutions. He worked previously in publishing and served in the military. Specific areas of expertise include interactive strategy, emerging technologies, solution architecture and design, and project planning. To view Mr. Crader’s complete article visit http://npengage.com/nonprofit-technology/spring-cleaning-your-database
In 2014 Merriam-Webster added 150 new words to their print dictionary. One of those words was “crowdfunding.” What exactly does this heavy - duty buzz word mean? Well Merriam’s definition is “the practice of obtaining needed funding by soliciting contributions from many people especially from the online community.” While crowdfunding initially began as a mechanism for start-up business to raise financial support, crowdfunding has now swooped into and made a place for itself in the nonprofit world.
While on-line fundraising has already raised millions of dollars, it is expected to explode into a $90 - 96-billion-dollar industry by 2025 (National Council of Nonprofits.) These numbers may sound exciting but, nonprofits need to carefully weigh the benefits of hopping on the crowdfunding bandwagon.
Agencies need to do a self-examination to decide if they should run a crowdfunding campaign. According to Crowdfunding for Nonprofits “ nonprofits should only run campaigns that both forward the organization’s goals and get significant organizational buy-in before launch.” Additionally, organizations should consider deciding how the following three questions will be answered:
Consider starting with the Nation Council of Nonprofits (www. councilofnonprofits.org) for recommendations. Another resource to look at is 7 Top Crowdfunding Sites for Nonprofits and Higher-Ed Institutions, by Taylor Corrado.
Whatever your decision, be patient. Crowdfunding takes effort and patience. It is not a sprint but more of a marathon.
Crowdfunding for Nonprofits
By Erin Morgan Gore & Breanna DiGiammarinoErin Morgan Gore is Director of Strategy at Purpose, an Adjunct Professor at NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and an advisor to the sharing economy startup Weleet.co. Gore previously led social sector work in The Bridgespan Group’s New York office and the Boston Consultant Group's Boston and Stockholm offices.
Breanna DiGiammarino is the cause director at Indiegogo, where she leads a team to bring the value of crowdfunding to the social sector. Prior to Indiegogo, DiGiammarino was the senior associate at the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and a consultant at The Bridgespan Group. Read the complete article: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/crowdfunding_for_nonprofits
7 Top Crowdfunding Sites for Nonprofits and Higher-Ed Institutions
By Taylor Corrado
Taylor Corrado is the Head of Nonprofit and Education Marketing at HubSpot, the inbound marketing software company.
Read the complete article here: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/crowdfunding-sites-for-nonprofits-higher-ed-li#sm.00000r7rzvgkavfpeph4mgui7jbis
Crowdfunding for Nonprofits
National Council of Nonprofits
“Capacity building is not just about the capacity of a nonprofit today -- it's about the nonprofit’s ability to deliver its mission effectively now, and in the future. Capacity building is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit.”
(National Council of Nonprofits.)
This very powerful statement creates a very simple question for your organization – Are we delivering on our mission and will we be able to do so in the future?
When looking at capacity building consider the infrastructure of a car. The car’s mission is to get the driver from point A to point B. The ability to do that relies heavily on the driver and how the vehicle has been maintained. Several additional factors play into this. Has the driver been properly educated on how to operate the vehicle? Has the vehicle been properly maintained? Have the oil and other fluids been checked? Does the vehicle have gas? Has the vehicle had an annual tune-up? These factors and many others determine if the car will be able to accomplish its goal of getting the driver from point A to point B.
Capacity building for nonprofit organization operates in the same manner. To sustain an organization one needs to consider evaluating their infrastructure like that of the car. Questions to ask might include: Is leadership the strongest it can be? Are board members effective? Do employees have the necessary skills to be effective? Are volunteers trained annually? Are we serving the community? Are we getting the funding we need? These factors support your organization’s goals.
TCC Group’s Capacity Building 3.0 How to Strengthen the Social Ecosystem, suggests organizations consider what needs to be evaluated and how to do just that. They suggest reviewing skills, operational systems, training, technical assistance and experience levels.
To learn more read the complete briefing at
TCC Group is consulting firm passionate about helping the social sector achieve greater impact. Since 1980, they have developed strategies and programs that enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of foundations, nonprofits, corporate citizenship programs, and government agencies.
Capacity Building 3.0 How to Strengthen the Social Ecosystem. Jared Raynor with Chris Cardona, Thomas Knowlton, Richard Mittenthal, and Julie Simpson
Additional resources for capacity building:
National Council of Nonprofits - www.councilofnonprofits.org
Grantspace – www.grantspace.org
It’s a new year! This is a great time to start creating, reviewing,
updating and implementing new practices for your organization.
This month let’s look at staff training.
Staff training is a critical piece to the success of any organization. Without it employees are flying by the seat of their pants assuming they are doing the right things in their role, but could potentially be doing more harm than good.
Reasons for training vary depending on the goals and needs for the organization. Some of these include:
· Carry out the organization’s mission
· Increasing fundraising
· Improving risk management
· Improving donor, employee, volunteer and client satisfaction
· Career development
Now that you know the why of training let’s look at the how, starting with the "6 Best Practices: Is Your Nonprofit Staff Training Effective?" by Rebecca Wyatt
1. Training should support organizational goals
First, identify attainable goals and work towards them across all actions of our organization. Then, identify learning objectives for each training session that tie directly back to those organizational goals. If the training isn’t going to help you achieve your goals, it’s probably better to invest valuable resources elsewhere.
2. Effective training links to clearly articulated job descriptions and work processes
Similar to articulating organizational goals, you must also clearly articulate job descriptions and work processes. Once those are clearly defined, it’s much easier for your training program to define what success looks like. 3. Vary your training methods
While instructor-led training is great for the delivery of key skills and concepts, nothing beats ongoing coaching for reinforcing those concepts and fine-tuning the results. Remember to keep these sessions fun and engaging
4. New hires should complete a thorough orientation
Start early! Training new employees bonds them with senior staff and conveys that they’re a valued part of the team. New hire orientation also exposes them to the organization’s culture and sets a tone of continuous learning and improvement right from the beginning. Nonprofits are uniquely positioned to inspire new employees around the organization’s mission.
5. Job-related information and training should be readily available
Curating and managing job-related information is an ongoing task as the body of knowledge tends to grow over time. Identify the information and tools employees need to perform their jobs well and invest in a robust knowledge-management system so that they can find it.
6. Create a culture of learning
Leaders must demonstrate that learning is valued by continuously seeking their own professional development opportunities and sharing their enthusiasm with staff.
They must also include learning outcomes in staff professional goal setting and performance evaluations. A culture of learning doesn’t stop at formal training - we learn from each other.
Blog authour Rebecca Wyatt has 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and training, racking up good karma points doing everything from teaching high school English to helping harried nonprofit staff sharpen their software skills. She works for Salsa Labs, a supplier of nonprofit CRM software located in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Often agency volunteers are the face and voice of your organization. They are the folks out in the trenches, tasked with sharing and carrying out your mission. Although it is important to demonstrate your gratitude for their efforts year-round, the holiday season offers the unique opportunity to highlight their kind-heartedness.
Something to consider is people volunteer for a variety of reasons. They want to give something back to their community. Some want to make a difference in the lives of others. Some want to help others less fortunate or without a voice. During this season of giving nonprofit organizations have a unique opportunity to applaud the generosity given throughout the past year and to celebrate the humanity that seems especially prominent during this holiday season.
Volunteers are an invaluable part of the nonprofit world. Many programs would cease to exist without their efforts. So here are two questions to ask yourself. The first one is does your organization let volunteers know how much of an impact they make? Volunteers need to know that what they are doing is affecting someone, somewhere, somehow. Two, do your volunteers know how grateful the agency is to them for their work? Everyone likes to know their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Now more than ever is a great time to let them hear it.
Whether you choose informal or formal ways to acknowledge volunteers there are many options available to demonstrate your gratitude. Here are just a few:
Peace and joy to you during this holiday season.
Welcome to the inaugural blog for the Volunteer Center of McHenry County!
VCMC is excited to introduce our new blog series. We are here to help strengthen nonprofits. We strive to find resources to help agencies become stronger and more successful. Our goal is to help you achieve your goals. There are a number of tools to do this, but let’s focus on blogging and what it might do for your agency.
For starters, what exactly is a blog?...
In simple terms it is a piece of software which allows you to communicate to the masses via a website. It is a dynamic communications tool that shares information but also allows for comments and feedback from those who read it.
You may ask yourself…why do we need a blog? A blog is a terrific place to discuss issues, share your stories and gather feedback on your content about your agency.
Start with your agency news. Folks need to hear your message! They need to know what your agency is about and why they should support it. It is also an excellent tool to let folks know what kind of activities and events are happening with your agency.
Blogging also lets you share personal stories about your clients’ victories and accomplishments. It is a great way to showcase how your agency is making a difference in the community you serve.
Use your blog as an opportunity to thank your staff, supporters and volunteers. Acknowledging their efforts gives them the opportunity to shine and encourages others to be part of your agency.
All you need to get started is a keyboard and a volunteer. To learn more about nonprofit blogs please read Taylor Corrado’s article “6 Essential Components of Top Notch Nonprofit Blogs.”
We would love to hear what you think or what types of support materials might be beneficial for your agency.