Strengthening Nonprofit Governance & Management
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What Would Nonprofit Network Do?

  • Thursday, October 27, 2016 12:42 PM | Jessica Chipman (Administrator)

    Jessica Chipman

    Administrative Assistant

    “How do you stay so organized?” 

    This question has been following me around since I can remember. Though I’m not sure how my passion for staying organized started, I’m sure growing up with a very organized grandma helped (thanks, Grandma J). Staying organized has helped me streamline processes and accomplish goals both at work and home. I want to share some tips that might be able to translate to you and your work. 

    A simple method that helps me to stay organized is utilizing a to-do list. Below are some tips on how to keep your to-do list functional and manageable.

    5 Steps to Make Your To-Do List Work for You

    1) Find a medium that works for you. Determine how to keep track of your list according to your lifestyle. Would you prefer using pen and paper so that your list is physically in front of you? Would it be better to keep an electronic list on your phone for your on-the-go lifestyle? Use method works best for you. (There are plenty of apps that you can download to help you manage your to-do list. An app called Quip was introduced to me on my first day working for Nonprofit Network and I’ve been using it ever since. Check it out.)

    2) Make a weekly master list and a daily list. Start each week by making a master list of everything that you need to accomplish for the week. Then each day create a daily list. Write down everything that you have to do that day on your list (include meetings, tasks, appointments…everything that you can think of). This will help you plan your day (and get the satisfaction of crossing items off your to-do list once a task is accomplished).

    3) Be realistic. Do not overwhelm yourself. Reality check – you may not be able to accomplish 15 tasks in one day. Highlight the top three things you need to get done that day and do them. It is important to recognize that life happens. There is only so much time in a day. Something unexpected may happen (you may get interrupted several times, the phone might ring off the hook…You get the idea). If you did not accomplish a task that you were hoping to do today, do it first thing tomorrow.

    4) Break it down! If you have a large project to tackle, break down everything that needs to be done in order to accomplish that project. It may seem silly, but laying out the individual tasks allows you to process out and recognize everything that is required for the project. After writing down each task, the project may seem bigger or smaller than you originally expected. By seeing each step required, it will help you to better plan and manage your time.

    5) Prepare a to-do list before you leave work.
    The last thing I do before I leave work for the day is make a to-do list for the next day. I transfer anything I did not get done today to the next day’s list and write down new tasks that I need to accomplish. This helps me set my expectations for the next day. Bonus – when I walk into the office the next day, my to-do list is right there, ready and waiting for me to dive in.

    There’s something satisfying about crossing tasks off of your to-do list. I hope these tips will help you to organize your to-do list in a way that allows you to take charge and tackle your day with a smile.

    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Thursday, October 20, 2016 2:07 PM | Carrie Heider Grant (Administrator)

    Carrie Heider Grant

    Program Coordinator

    I've always been that person with her nose in a book, blog, or article, and over the past two years, I've cultivated a pretty good collection of go-to resources for relevant nonprofit information. I've gathered my favorites together and want to share some of them with you today.

    Marketing and Social Media 

    My primary role at Nonprofit Network is to manage our content, marketing, and social media, so I'm always on the lookout to learn more from the pro's.  Here are some great resources that I frequently reference.  Bonus points for most of them being local to the south central Michigan region. I'm all about local business:

    Wolber Works 

    Mich Marketing Tips 

    Rough Draft Solutions 

    Social Media Examiner 


    No one gets into nonprofit work for the money (hello, student loans), but rather because the work matters. We're working in this sector because we believe in the mission. One of my favorite parts about working with Nonprofit Network is our focus on promoting equity from the bottom up. These equity-driven blogs are some of my favorites:


    Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Project 

    Forward with Monica  

    Change-Makers Blog 

    Nonprofit Best Practices

    It's so important to stay on top of trends in the nonprofit sector, and these blogs and website are my go-to's for good information, fresh perspective, and relevant topics. I am a subscriber to most of these resources (You know you're devoted when you're willing to volunteer to receive more emails each week):


    Nonprofit Ethicist 

    Nonprofit With Balls 

    Michigan Nonprofit Association 

    Chronicle of Philanthropy 

    Nonprofit Quarterly 

    Nonprofit Good Practice Guide 

    Do you read any of these blogs?  What resources are on your list of favorites?

    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Wednesday, October 12, 2016 8:58 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)

    Tom Williams

    Capacity Builder

    I like to use this blogging time to capture some themes that I have recently been encountering in the nonprofit world. One of these themes has an elementary, almost mundane ring to it, but one with a profound impact  nonetheless.  Let me share three conversations I've had recently with individuals who are key players of their respective, successful organizations. 

    Can you see yourself or your organization in any of these encounters?

    1) Near the close of a very productive board retreat, the board  completed a self-assessment of themselves and scored themselves low in the “Planning” function required of all nonprofit boards.  The comment that raisesd my eyebrows (and others' in the room) was  the key leader's declaration: “I have a lot a great ideas on how we could better meet our missiion, but they are all in my head.”

    2) I was having a good one-on-one exchange around some capacity building efforts and this key leader confided in me that he was considering the idea of retiring soon, but the board was unaware of this idea. He has been with this organization for years and the board is heavily dependent on his leadership.  My question to him was whether the board had a succession plan on how to go about finding a replacement should the retirement happen soon.  His response: “No, and that’s what keeps me up at night."

    3) An entrepreneurial, high octane person agreed to lead a broken and dysfunctional organization many years ago.  With a lot of angst, hard work, late nights and forfeits on her part, the organization slowly began to turn around.  Over a multi-year period, the organization became healthy and started to grow.  It currently was thriving and our conversation was centered on sustainability and the future legacy of this person’s blood, sweat, and tears.  I was thoroughly impressed with all the great actions taken and the related healing and growth she had accomplished.  My question was whether another leader could assume some of her responsibilities and ease her transition. Her reply: “I never wrote any of it down and next year’s actions are all in my head.”

    Remember, all three of these conversations were with leaders who impress me. So as I reflect on these three conversations, the theme that jumped off the page, was the simple step of capturing these fantastic ideas to paper.  It seems so simple, mundane andquite franklyalmost too basic.  However, putting it to paper means other people have access and greater understanding of these profound issues.  Organizations thrive when multiple people share the vision for the future.  Capturing these ideas, means the great ideas are now mobile and can be easily shared with each other, with funders, or even with people to be recruited for board membership.

    What’s the down side of great leaders carrying their fantastic ideas in their head, or with boards operating without a delineated plan?  Potentially, a significant setback in programs and progress, or even a loss of financial support due to the public perception that the organization is stalling.  A new job prospect, unexpected illness or a well-deserved retirement should not devastate your mission accomplishment or future growth.

    I fully realize me saying “get it down on paper” is vastly easier than the actual act of capturing the information. But it's a first step.  It is the first step towards ensuring your organization is sustainable in the absence of your key players. 

    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Thursday, October 06, 2016 10:00 AM | Katena Cain (Administrator)

    Katena Cain

    Nonprofit Management Consultant

    The board's role in fundraising is to provide leadership, financial support, and connection to donors and potential donors. The board must be structured to meet the primary needs of the organization. And it needs to be prepared to effectively pursue the fundraising goals it establishes in support of the organization. The board works in conjunction with the staff to bring great influence and strength in support of the organizations broader fundraising plan with the staff driving the day-to-day execution of most activities.

    Preparation for fundraising is greatly aided when all board members participate in the planning process, reading and providing feedback on development of the case for support, understanding the development strategies being planned, and understanding their collective and individual roles.

    Advocating on behalf of an organization is an important early part of the fundraising process. Board members bring two critical forms of leverage to the process: reach into the community through their own spheres of influence and the collective volume of their connections. Board members should look for opportunities to introduce others to their organization and to educate them about the importance of the mission. As advocates, board members should always be ready to tell the story of the organization and articulate the mains points of case for support. It is not necessary for board members to walk around with every detail and statistic. A few key statistics and a story or two illustrating the good work of their organization, combined with the board member's passion are more than enough to initially engage the prospect.

    While there are many opportunities for individual board members to participate in fundraising, they can be most effective in securing major gifts. As leaders for whom the nonprofit organization is a priority, board members begin all fundraising efforts with their best prospects - themselves. Understanding that in the nonprofit arena time is NOT money, board members make their cash gift first in order to be comfortable asking others to do the same. 

    Is it realistic to expect others to do something that you are not willing to do yourself?  

    Board members who cite time as their gift are in a good position to ask others for time. Time does not pay staff, utilities or the other hard expenses required to operate the organization. 

    An individual who gives time is a volunteer. An individual who gives money is a donor. A board member must be both a volunteer and a donor.

    Nonprofit Network’s mission is to strengthen nonprofit governance and management and we do this in a variety of ways.  Reach out to us to learn how to become a better volunteer and donor for your organization. 

    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Thursday, September 29, 2016 11:48 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Regina Funkhouser

    Executive Director

    I asked a simple question on Facebook last week – What questions should you ask when you are being interviewed for a board position? I received a ton of great responses in the comments, and clearly some people were suggesting questions they wished they had asked before they joined their board:

    “How are board members trained/supported in meeting their obligation for fiscal oversight?”

    How would you like me to contribute to your process and conversations? Why did you choose me?” 

    “What do you want to achieve in the next year, five years, and what do you want me (or think I can) contribute to your success?”

    If you were recruiting a new board member, could you answer them all?  And most importantly, would the rest of your board have the same answers?  

    The questions illustrate the joys and frustrations of serving with a group of volunteers and can should be used to develop your board orientation and training program. 

    I was just talking to a new board member who was sharing some struggles his new organization is facing. His board is filled with well-meaning people with good hearts and pure intentions. Many had been good friends prior to joining this board (red flag!) and now some aren’t even speaking to one another.  All of the board members are frustrated and ready to quit!  

    Unfortunately, this situation is not unique. 

    Sometime we choose to speak to people in short hand – someone nods in agreement, indicating that from their perspective they know exactly the point you are trying to make and we quickly move on without a conversation to determine if we really agree or understand one another. 

    This situation is typical of organizations who don’t take time to have structural, foundational conversations that come to conclusion with clear decisions.  Many boards work on the assumption that we are all on the same page – that we all agree what “an active board member” is, without ever defining the word “active.”

    It doesn’t matter how long you have served on your board, these questions are never too late to ask. 

    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Thursday, September 22, 2016 11:01 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)

    Tom Williams

    Capacity Building Consultant

    Visionaries. Do you reserve that descriptor only for people in the history books or in that last great TED talk? If we only assign that title to people who did fantastic things like invent democracy or land people on the moon, it leaves the rest of us admiringtheir genius and yearning to be one instead of stepping up to fill the job at hand. Your organization needs visionaries

    I’d like to make the case, that “visionary” isn’t a unique lofty attribute of a small group of people that caused society to make BIG changes. Rather, it’s actually a job description that needs to be filled on a daily basis at each mission-based organization in our community.

    Make a listI’m sure you have a list of folks you consider to be visionaries. Go ahead and write them down. After you get to the point where you are struggling to add to the list I have one more to add: your name. Quit blushing or thinking I’m trying to compliment you. Just write it down.

    In addition to that solid list, your organization already has a group of people who convene on a regular basis that are expected to project into the future and imagine the possibilities: your board of directors. In fact, a primary role of a board member is to imagine the future of the organization, seek commonality, and project the best path forward to reach that vision.

    Research tells us that exemplary leaders consistently exhibit five practices that contribute to their success. One of those practices is inspiring a shared vision. Go back to your list. These people didn’t just sit on their view of how things could be. They made at least two commitments to support this successful practice. One was envisioning the future by imaging exciting and ennobling possibilities. The second was enlisting others in this common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.

    Yes, I know your board meetings are filled with day to day program reports and budget line items. Who has the time to think about the future possibilities when the here-and-now is in front of us yelling loudly? You do. The future of your organization depends upon it. As a leader of your organization, you are expected to carve out the room for this discussion. Those who do not are doomed to stay in the tyranny of the moment and settle for mediocrity.

    Don’t fret if this feels awkward. Becoming a visionary for most people isn’t a nature skill. However, it can be learned and—like a muscle—can be improved through exercise. 

    Here’s an exercise I suggest you try to becoming more visionary:

    Set aside 30 minutes with writing equipment and write down your personal response to this question: 

    If time, number of volunteers and dollars was UNLIMITED, what SPECIFIC accomplishments could we make to fulfill our mission and be viewed as the envy of all nonprofit organizations within 100 miles? 

    Deliberately use your entire 30 minutes and make the list of accomplishments as specific as possible. Be deliberate.

    Here’s where your leadership skills are exhibited. Flex that visionary muscle again by sitting with two trusted colleagues (fellow board members? other staff?) and present the entire list verbally, asking for their candid opinions. Listen to the feedback. Edit, enhance, and modify the best ideas. 

    The seed of your vision will be planted in these conversations. 

    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements.  Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.

  • Thursday, September 15, 2016 11:12 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Regina Funkhouser

    Executive Director

    Nonprofit organizations are on the front lines of promoting the health and well-being of local communities. They serve as a safety net for social services and act as advocates and facilitators for individual and community voice.

    This work is hard – so very hard, because resistance is part of change – be it advocating for foster children, homeless families, art education, or increasing literacy. Changes to individuals, organizations, communities, and systems require deliberate, planned acts.   

    Just ask Newton. His Laws of Motion apply here too.

    Consider the First Law:
    An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

    There is a natural tendency to keep doing what has been done. We get in ruts – doing the same things the same way with no thought to efficacy or impact. All objects resist changes in their state of motion. Our programs and our systems, our infrastructure and our plans all seem to have this natural tendency to avoid change until we are forced by something big – maybe a cognitive shift, an evolution of thought, new data – that alters our course. How often do you ask yourself, why am I doing it this way or how do I know what I am doing is still effective?

    And then Newton’s Second Law comes in to play: Heavier objects require more force to move.

    If we want big changes, we need loud, assertive acts to get movement – all of us saying the same message, all of us standing – or sitting – working toward the same end: a better future for all of us. The Collective Impact work has proven that if we all run forward, full speed and in the same direction, we might move mountains. 

    But are we also listening to the smaller, quieter voices that don’t currently have the force to move heavier objects? Are we valuing the unheard? Are you the heavier object?

    If we do this correctly, we actually use Newton’s Third Law: For every force, there is a reaction force equal in size, but in the opposite direction.

    In many cases, it feels like we face resistance to our efforts and barriers to success, like lack of funds, unmotivated staff, or clients that don’t follow the services plan. But with appropriate physics, this reaction force can be used to our advantage. This is where the constant, persistent gentle pressure becomes our fuel. This is where we leverage the barrier to push us forward instead of minimizing our impact. The solid ground beneath our feet launches our rocket.

    Use these laws to your advantage. Learn to be agile – to not become the system that requires an unbalanced force to change our direction. 

    What internal and external forces do you use to navigate and propel? 

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  • Thursday, September 08, 2016 12:00 PM | Katena Cain (Administrator)

    Katena Cain

    Nonprofit Management Consultant

    Making sure you hire well is so important. Committed, motivated, qualified employees help your organization achieve its purpose. Every employee has an impact on company culture— which in turn attracts more prospective employees. Understanding this and the way employees can change culture for the better is key for employers who want a strong pipeline of diverse talent.

    Millennials and Gen Z are the most diverse generations in U.S. history and are made up of the highest representation of minorities to date.  These generations expect inclusion of all people and seek out employers who share their values.  That doesn't mean the hunt for diversity should be largely different from the typical recruiting process. 

    At the end of the day, it's about hiring the most qualified candidates. 

    But that may also mean you as an employer will need to make adjustments to how you approach and seek out candidates. The first step is identifying how your hiring process may be excluding some excellent candidates.

    Here are some ways seven tips to remove barriers in the application and hiring process:

    1) Specify the need, rather than how it’s achieved. Examples: Instead of requiring a valid driver’s license, ask for the ‘ability to travel and provide own transportation.’ Or instead of requiring that a candidate reside in a given location, ask for ‘the ability to report to work within 30 minutes of call.’

    2) Ask for ability wherever possible.
    This enables candidates with transferable skills to compete. Ability means the candidate has the potential to do the job, but may not have had the opportunity to develop the potential. Candidates can demonstrate ability through past achievements, including volunteer experience. Example: Instead of requiring knowledge of a law or experience in implementation, ask for the ability to learn, interpret and apply a law.

    3) Ask for related work experience.
    Instead of specific work experience, a certain number of years of experience, recent experience or transferable experience may be adequate. Example: Instead of asking for ‘experience with Word XP,’ ask for ‘experience with Microsoft Word’ or ‘or similar application.’ 

    4) Focus on the qualities or knowledge needed to perform the work effectively.
    Avoid focus on a specific credential (a degree, diploma, certificate or license). Include a credential in a job advertisement only when required by law (i.e. Registered Nurse) or where it is the only means of obtaining the skills, knowledge and ability needed to perform the work effectively.

    5) Specify the kind of communication required.
    Example: Specify ‘listening and/or speaking on the telephone’, ‘writing’ and/or ‘negotiating agreements’ rather than asking for ‘an ability to communicate effectively.’

    6) Specify the working conditions.
    Elaborate the number of hours of work per pay period for a part-time position and the expected duration of the term for short-term positions. For shift or late-night work, include information about security.

    7) Focus on the desired ability or skill instead of a personal trait.
    Instead of requiring a ‘mature, cooperative person’, ask for ‘ability to work effectively as a team member.’ Write clearly and simply, using common words, a straightforward style and simple sentences. Avoid jargon, technical and legal language, and acronyms.

    Nonprofit Network is committed to ensuring best practices around diverse, inclusive, and equitable practices.  Please feel free to reach out with any questions.

  • Thursday, September 01, 2016 10:50 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)


    Tom Williams
    Capacity Building Consultant

    You would never leave home on a road trip to Disney World without some version of a map to assure you got to your destination on time, would you?  Let's consider how this translates to the nonprofit world of fund development, where the “destination” could be that you reach year’s end with your programs and organization totally funded.

    Your “map” for this journey is a fund development plan that is documented step-by-step. The critical conversations and processes your organization goes through as part of the map planning forces you to focus on the intermediate legs of the journey in addition to the end destination.

    It’s all about being deliberate. This effort actually builds organizational muscle and enlarges the group’s capacity to address its mission. 

    Taking a rambling, less planned route typically results in a few (and potentially expensive) detours, increased anxiety over the outcome, and a higher risk that your goals might not be reached at all.  Just like that that map for a trip to Disney World, a documented fund development map provides clear direction for the journey.

    Here are five reasons you should map out your fund development plan step-by-step:

    1. Build the Donor's Trust. 

    A plan is a great communication tool to signal donors you are an organization that takes its mission and resources seriously. This is ground work for acquiring, retaining, and upgrading donors' gifts.

    2. Engage Staff & Board. 

    A plan is also a great internal communication tool to engage your board, staff, and volunteers in the effort to raise funds.

    3. Increase Efficiency and Success.

    The process of developing the plan is much more efficient than trial and error fundraising. It will help you to save time and money while increasing success rates.

    4. Identify Growth Opportunities. 

    The process naturally identifies areas in the organization that need to be built up and improved. Strengthening these areas that have been holding you back is key in gaining ground on mission accomplishment.

    5. Provide Peace of Mind. 

    A solid fund development plan has a calendar component to it. These dated benchmarks go a long way in eliminating frantic, last-minute preparations to complete a grant request, get the tickets printed on time, or identify the location for next season's event. This automated aspect provides the peace of mind that can contribute substantially to organizational morale. 

    Often times, an organization that does not map out its fund development plan follows the same logic that we might use when we fail to exercise our bodies: We don't have the time...It didn't work the last time we tried...We didn't stick with the plan before and it only added to the guilt.

    You and I both know that these are not legitimate reasons for not assuring our missions are met. Make a plan. Have the conversations. See it through to the end.

    If you want to discuss the process of developing a useful fund development plan, contact me.  We can talk it through.

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  • Thursday, August 25, 2016 2:00 PM | Katena Cain (Administrator)

    Looking for 5 Reasons to Map out Your Fund Development Plan?  

    Click here:

    A great nonprofit leader drives a sense of mission down through the organization, upward through the board, and outward through the community.  She is also the organization’s chief storyteller, brand advocate, brand guardian, crisis spokesperson, chief marketing officer, and chief fundraiser. To be effective in these roles, she must be authentic and be able to connect, collaborate, persuade, mediate, and negotiate with the best.

    A great leader is also the ambassador for the health of the organization, both structurally and financially. This means she is responsible for building and maintaining relationships that enable the organization to flourish. She must recruit and retain the talent and supply the tools necessary to develop a strong infrastructure and a culture that builds morale.

    A great leader is "tapped in" to her board, staff, and the people she serves.  She’s in tune with the social and economic conditions that affect the organization’s mission. 

    Faced with funding shortfalls, increased demand for services, and donors seeking demonstrated results for their dollars, today’s leader must be a master at adapting, recognizing challenges to be overcome, and seizing opportunities as they arise.

    Most of all, a great leader leads. Everyone around her should understand where they are headed and why. Ideally, they will live for it. If it seems like something is not working, she resists the urge to blame. She will, instead, explore the motivations and interests of employees, volunteers, and board members to get some insights into what’s driving people toward (or away from) the organization’s mission.  

    At Nonprofit Network, our mission is to strengthen nonprofit governance and management.  Feel free to reach out to me to build your capacity.

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