As I prepare for the workshop I am leading next month on Project Management Basics, I feel like we need to highlight a tool that nonprofits need to embrace right now, and that is doing a Risk Assessment.
For project managers, a risk assessment is a series of calculations to determine what things may be likely to derail your project. The equation is simple.
Risk = probability of something happening x the Impact of it happening.
The people on the project team will list the "risks" and then assign a number from 0 to 5. 0 is no impact/probability and 5 is high impact/probability. Anything 12+ is High, 6-9 is Medium, and 5 and below is Low Risk.
Let’s say you are planning an outside event in the fall. A possible risk might be Bad Weather. The probability of a storm or other bad weather in the fall in Michigan is fairly high, I’d say a 3. Determine the impact, I'd say the impact of a storm on an outside event is fairly high, so I'll assign it a 5. 3 x 5= 15. So we've determined Bad Weather is a High Risk Factor. *Please note, at this step we are not looking for ways to mitigate a risk (that comes later!) we are only determining the risk.
12+ is High, 6-9 is Medium, and 5 and below is Low Risk.
Now, let’s say you’re planning a "Stream Clean Up" in the spring. What’s the risk of not having enough volunteers to your event? The impact of not having enough volunteers might be medium because you’d still manage to get some of the work done. I’ll say a 2. What are the chances of you not having enough volunteers? Maybe also a 2? 2 x 2= 4. Not having enough volunteers would be Low Risk.
So, why is this tool important for nonprofits right now?
Because we are in a time of unprecedented uncertainty for many organizations. Thus, using a simple tool like this with your board allows you to rate the risk to various programs, funds, and events. What is the Risk to your organization of losing a grant that your organization has counted on for years? Ask the people on the board to use the 0-5 scale and ask them what the impact would be, and what the probability of it happening is. If the Risk is high, then start now in trying to figure out what you need to do to mitigate that risk! Perhaps a call to the donor before the application is due is in order to get more information on their funding priorities. Perhaps it is time to cultivate other funding streams (hint: it is ALWAYS time to cultivate new donors!).
Go through the list. Assess your risks honestly, and use the scores to prioritize what you need to do NOW to keep your organization alive and afloat.
To discuss these scenarios and others further please join me on Wednesday September 2nd at 9 AM for our new workshop, Project Management Basics
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From the moment we are brought into this world, we begin to hear how important it is to be kind to others. Whether it was sharing your toys with a sibling, or including someone at recess, shoveling a neighbor’s driveway, delivering a meal to a sick friend, we have always been encouraged to give to others. While we heard it often, most of us never questioned the phrase, “Sharing is caring.” That is, until we grew older.
It happens to all of us at some point. We begin to question if our efforts are really worth it. We begin to calculate if we have enough resources to allocate to others. Eventually, the kid who valued the idea of sharing whenever possible begins to question if they should even share at all. I’m here to tell you that you are more influential than you think and that every act of giving you perform creates a butterfly effect that changes the world.
Giving your time or a donation to an organization creates a shock-wave. A small donation to an organization can help carry out a mission that inspires others to give as well. Giving your time can inspire others to join an organization or be the extra boost it needed to succeed. Helping spread a message can help educate someone that otherwise would never be exposed to it.
You see, the simple act of giving is not so simple. Sir Isaac Newton's first law states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. As long as you are trying, as long as you are giving in some way, you are that external force.
You are the difference maker.
You don’t have to give a million-dollar donation to make a shock-wave. You can give your time to help build a playground for instance. A playground where someone may learn for the first time that “sharing is caring.”
All nonprofits benefit from public support and donations, and most depend on private donations to serve their communities. While an individual taxpayer only receives a partial tax benefit for charitable donations, the community served by the charitable nonprofit receives the full value of every hour and dollar.
Now more then ever your donations are critical to a nonprofits success. NN uses contributions to help fund scholarships, workshops and to provide resources.
A gift of any size is deeply appreciated.
There is strong evidence to suggest that the worst isn’t over. Many have tried to compare the pandemic with a natural disaster and utilize similar strategies to respond and recover. This pandemic could be compared with some of the most significant natural disasters in recent history, like Hurricane Katrina for example. As with that major event, the actual hurricane wasn’t the scary part – it was what happened afterwards.
We are in the eye of this storm and we have opportunities to regroup, replenish and prepare for a long road ahead.
As we all struggle to fight the onslaught of challenges brought on by COVID-19, let us not bury our heads in the fear, but look up and look forward and prepare for the realities we are now facing.
Let’s look at some sobering facts and begin to explore what we should be doing to prepare.
What does this mean for you? It means that the nonprofit sector will have more people to take care of. People will have to struggle to meet their basic needs and pay their rent. Foreclosures and evictions will increase. Our food pantries will be busy. Substance abuse and domestic violence will increase and so will child abuse cases. Mental health needs will increase. Now more than ever, you should be exploring and addressing any disparities to who and how your mission is delivered.
What can you do? Stay informed about what is going on at the state and national level. Watch for updates from resources like the Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Michigan League for Public Policy. Now is the time to be heard and use our collective voices. Know how every decision impacts you and the organizations that matter to those you serve.
What does this mean for you? It means if nonprofits who rely on state or government contracts, could experience delayed payments or even the cancelling of contracts. It means that some of the people we have been partnering with might not be able to hold up their end of the agreement.
What can you do? Check your financial history. Go back to 2008-2012 and review what happened to your funding sources. Were your payments delayed or were contracts decreased or cancelled? One thing to remember is that COVID-19 has changed the rules of this game – our legislators are less likely to cut education funding because our schools need more, not less, to get our kids back in the classroom. So that means things that were safe last time might not be this go-around. Make a contingency plan that will allow you to act quickly when the new budget details are revealed.
What does this mean for you? It means that if a nonprofit has relied on large fundraising events, that income will not return this year. Programs that rely on people gathering will be significantly impacted.
What can you do? Revisit your mission and remember that the programs you currently deliver are just one way you achieve your mission. Now is the time to change your fundraising strategy – if you haven’t already – and develop a vibrant individual donor program.
Nonprofit Sector Health
What does this mean for you? Some of us will not survive. And this will mean that our communities will rely on support provided by less organizations. Fewer support services will mean more individuals will struggle to navigate systems and receive services.
What can you do? Check on your neighbors, partners and friends. Understand who might be in jeopardy. Become more efficient, and eliminate waste: time, energy and resources. Continue to develop contingency plans. Affirm your organizational and institutional values so you know what to protect.
If you are an Executive Director, you need to gather your data and evaluate your risks. Your board members need to meet, regularly, and you need to begin preparing them for hard decisions. You will need to help them make difficult cuts. You need to ask for help.
If you are a board member, you need to check in with your Executive Director. They are not OK. The burden is enormous. They are managing the impacts to your clients, employees, the organization, the community and the threat to not only their livelihoods, but life’s passion and work.
For some organizations, drastic cuts and dissolution's are on the horizon. They might see it – they might not. They can’t do this alone.
We have upcoming workshops that will help you (see below).
Critical Conversations for Nonprofits Workshop Series:
As with any severe storm, the world will look different afterwards. We will emerge, changed and not quite the same, but stronger and smarter and understand how to be better equipped for the next one.
Call us if you need help, we will brave the storm together.
If your organization needs help with planning, feel free to reach out to us, it's what we do. As always, we’re here to help you make the world a better place. Call 517-796-4750 or email us today! We're happy to help!
Click here for a PDF copy of this blog that you can print or email.
Our ED Regina Pinney adds her thoughts and voice behind this week's blog; Facebook Link
Being colorblind is the idea that ignoring or overlooking racial and ethnic differences promotes racial harmony. In some circles, it’s called color-evasive. In others, it is called a myth.
But we can’t not see color. We are taught in school to sort by color. We are regularly asked our favorite color. When we look at a new face the first thing we see is the color of their eyes and their appearance. In fact scientists say that the first thing we look at in a new person are all the ways we are similar. We talk about the color of our skin, we tan, color our hair, cheeks, eyelids and lips. We know what colors look good against our skin. We like colorful flowers. We use color to describe almost everything. We use it to filter our shopping choices, to help other people find something. Movie directors use color to signify relationships. We toil over the color of paint.
“Color plays a vitally important role in the world in which we live. Color can sway thinking, change actions, and cause reactions. It can irritate or soothe your eyes, raise your blood pressure or suppress your appetite,” says a popular graphic design resource.
In nature, we use our color to attract a mate, the more bold, and pretty the more likely it is we will attract our suitor. Color is all around us and beautifies our environment.
But – let's ignore all of that when it comes to our black and brown people?
Research shows that we don’t like to talk about the color of ones skin because it makes some of us uncomfortable. These studies show when we teach colorblindness, we are teaching our children that we do not have to accept or acknowledge the impacts of racism.
For centuries, the color of one’s skin determined everything –where you could live, where you could go to school, if you could get a job, if you could be out past dark, who you could date and who you could marry. In fact, a study completed in 2006 found that realtors were still steering white buyers to white neighborhoods and black buyers to black neighborhoods.
When we pretend not to see, we can’t talk about our differences. If we can’t talk about it, we then struggle to learn about or understand our differences. And we will continue to fear and make up stories in our heads (reinforce bias and stereotypes) about things we don’t understand instead of celebrate, embrace and be inclusive in our differences.
Color still matters.
Why? We like differences in lots of other ways – we like different foods and music. We like to share recipes. We like to know where people were born and where they grew up. We like to know about people’s traditions and heritages. We like to know it all – except how the color of someone's skin has impacted their life.
Being color blind (I don't see color) allows some to ignore the significant effects of racism that occur every day. Multiple studies show that racism is causing significant health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder. These equated constant racial macroaggressions produce the same trauma as experiencing violent crime.
Imagine if our doctors don't notice our color, our health will suffer. Race is incredibly important when it comes to diagnosing symptoms and preventative care.
How is this relevant to the nonprofit sector? When we don’t see color, we miss critical information that would help us attract, connect with and recruit donors, board members, and serve clients. Differences are important and allows us to customize how we work in order to be more effective and more impactful.
Inclusive design strategies, like Human Centered Design, have been proven to produce better outcomes because we create programs based on the needs of our community and who we serve.
Let’s replace color blindness with color appreciation. We all should be proud of who we are – what we look like. Let's embrace and enjoy our differences. Color makes us beautiful.
If your organization needs help with diversity, equity, and inclusion, feel free to reach out to us, it's what we do. You can also visit our Diversity, Inclusion & Equity page for free tools and updates on upcoming events. But as always, we’re here to help you make the world a better, safer, and more equitable place. Call 517-796-4750 or email us today! We're happy to help!
NN Capacity Builder
All too often I hear from nonprofit leadership that they are afraid to speak out on what they see as political issues. Generally, the fears fall into two categories. First, they are afraid they will get their IRS tax status revoked for being ‘political’ and second, they are concerned about public perceptions of their organization being too political or partisan, possibly costing them donors.
Let us start with a discussion about what lobbying is and what it isn’t. The IRS defines lobbying narrowly. There are two kinds of lobbying, direct and grassroots. Direct Lobbying is direct contact with elected officials or their staff to try and enact specific legislation. Grassroots Lobbying is attempting to sway public opinion on legislation. The IRS also recognizes that some lobbying by a 501c3 is permissible, so long as it isn’t a major part of its work. For example, when I worked for Cornell, once a year I made a trip to Albany to request a budget increase in the state budget for education. That was the only lobbying I did, and thus, it was not a major part of my work.
Advocacy, however, is something ALL nonprofits should be doing, especially now.
Advocacy includes a broad range of activities focused on the changes you want to see made without saying ‘vote for this bill.’ You can present your research, you can write papers, you can show evidence, arrange a protest or march, and schedule time to meet with your elected representatives all without it being lobbying. You can also share all the reasons you support specific legislation, and so long as you don’t ask them to vote a certain way, it isn’t lobbying, it is education.
Members of nonprofit leadership are some of the best people to advocate on behalf of the issues facing our communities. We work in the trenches and see the problems facing our communities first hand. Frequently, we’re the first people responding to those needs. We serve the people who all too often don’t have the political capital or frankly the time to advocate to politicians. But when their voices are heard they can be particularly powerful. We all know how difficult it is for those working multiple hourly jobs to meet their basic needs already. Finding a way to bring people along with you for an advocacy trip, though, can not only help to break down stereotypes, it can also open everyone’s eyes to the need to engage with our elected officials.
Plan. Create. Engage. Action. Momentum
Here are some things you can do to make an advocacy campaign as effective as possible:
A lot of times, people are nervous about meeting with their elected representatives. The more you do it, the more you come to understand that they are people, too. Many of them got into politics because of a desire to make the world a better place for the people they represent. Assume good intentions and don’t ever give up. Together, we can all make the world a better place.
If your organization needs help call (517-796-4750) or email us Info@Nonprofnetwork.org today for an appointment, we'd be happy to discuss a plan with you.
One of the habits of highly effective people, according to Stephen Covey, is to begin with the end in mind. It is also one of the habits of highly effective organizations. Many would contend that the “end” of a nonprofit organization is accomplishing their mission and achieving their vision.
It doesn’t matter what word you use: end, outcome, and intention, the concept is clear – know where you want to be and then work to arrive there. Notice beginning with the end is circular, not linear. Building a culture of planning within your organization will make you better for a multitude of reasons.
Here are the three strongest ones:
1. You will be more adaptive.
Knowing where you want to be, or what you want to be, is grounded in the ability to plan and predict. The power of a plan is not the plan, but rather in the planning – the power is in the middle. Highly effective organizations are not just working their missions or working towards the ends, they are working the middle. They are always in a state of planning – succession planning, board development planning, recruitment planning, financial planning, program planning. They continually identify where they are, where they want to go, and how they get there. This comprehensive approach allows organizations to avoid static conditions and adapt in real-time to maximize their effectiveness.
2. You will be more resilient.
Organizations in crisis often don’t see the connection between their lack of planning and their constant state of chaos. Being, or becoming, an organization with a culture of planning is a privilege. It means that an organization has protected the time necessary to plan, that resources are available to be planful, and that they have accommodated the brain-space required to think about their work beyond today. If an organization that is in a constant state of chaos (high board-turnover, high staff-turnover, financial stress, the real or perceived notion that there is no time to do or think about doing anything differently) does not intentionally build a culture that allows them to be planners, then they will always be unable to plan, predict, and identify cause and effect. But organizations that consider planning as nonnegotiable will see the chaos decrease – even in uncertain times. Planning makes an organization resilient despite the circumstances.
3. You will be more sustainable.
When we enter this constant state of planning, we then enter a state of being that allows us to pivot and move in new directions when necessary. We must acknowledge that change is constant and necessary. Once we embrace that reality, we can protect the space necessary to respond to that change thoughtfully so that we can continue serving our mission. Planning allows us to act in spite of uncertainty. Planning allows us to be comfortable in not being able to plan for every possible situation and outcome. This ability to be prepared, aware, and responsive is what leads to sustainability.
Be careful what you say after the phrase, “I am...” because your brain will manifest the words and you will become what you say you are. The beginning and the end are always connected.
Does your organization need help building and nurturing a culture of planning? Reach out to have a conversation with us. And in the meanwhile, let your brain get to work manifesting this:
I am adaptive. I am resilient. I am sustainable. I am a planner.
(blog updated from May 2017)
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Should you jump in or stay in the bleachers?
(updated from 4.5.17)
I want to talk about how, when, and why the leadership of your nonprofit may choose to advocate in this contentious political climate.
As an executive director myself, I have been thinking long and hard about how to lead and represent the organization I serve when it comes to navigating advocacy and taking stances on legislative and social issues.
During a strategic planning session last summer, Nonprofit Network's board had determined that in order to be sustainable, we must be relevant. Therefore, we actively seek to join tables where the conversation is about helping people, organizations, and communities to think differently about their infrastructure—to think differently about their systems and their processes. If we are that good—good enough to be invited to those tables—we will be a sustainable organization.
Our ultimate goal is to influence community solutions through our programming and services using best practices and research.
Your organization might have a similar goal, to influence the decisions of your clients and your community using your mission.
Last summer, this goal had felt pretty safe. Yes, it is a big, hairy, audacious goal, but safe enough. Recent events at local, state, and national levels have caused our board to revisit this word: influence. We recently checked in with each other and asked “Did we really mean it – and if we did, what now?”
Our official diversity and inclusion statement reads as follows:
Nonprofit Network strives to be a model of inclusion. We engage all people with dignity and respect. We believe that bringing diverse individuals together is essential to effectively address the issues that face current and prospective partners.
But in today’s divided and often cruel political climate, the work around diversity can create division, inclusion can create exclusion, and seeking equity for all somehow means someone else loses. Tensions are high, to say the least.
Nonprofit Network strongly believes in the practice of having policies and procedures in place before you need them. So if we know that if we are going to be relevant and influence community solutions, we first need to make some decisions about when, why, and how we decide to speak up.
We drafted a series of questions to guide that decision and I am sharing it with you here. Share this with your board and staff so you can discuss how to customize it to fit within your organization.
1) Is there a need?
2) Is it appropriate and relevant to the organization?
3) What are the risks?
4) How will we influence?
You might see Nonprofit Network jumping in the conversations that affect the nonprofit ecosystem. Know that when you see us at the table and hear our voice, we have run the decision through the questions above. These four questions will allow us to act with intention and proceed with a full understanding of our role and the potential results of our decision to influence.
Remember! Advocacy is not political activity. 501(c)3 nonprofits cannot endorse political candidates or contribute to political campaigns. This rule is part of the Johnson Amendment, and it helps nonprofits maintain their integrity as nonpartisan entities. You can however, support legislative bills, mileages, and advocate for your mission.
Want to share this with your organization and build your own decision tree? Email Info@nonprofnetwork.org to let us know and we'll send you an electronic copy of the four questions to share with your stakeholders. No strings attached...
Growing up in graduate student housing on the Wayne State Campus in the 1980's, I was blessed. I know a lot of people don't think growing up in downtown Detroit in the 80's would be a blessing, but you'd be wrong, it really was. I had friends from around the world. Rusbeh, a boy from Iran, shared stories of a land so different that it felt like a fairy tale. Greta, a girl from Germany, taught me to roller-skate. And Abdul, a teenager from Detroit, taught me that it’s what’s on the inside that matters, but that race is still relevant. It was true then, and it is certainly true now.
In the wake of yet another murder of an innocent black man, it’s more relevant than ever.
Nonprofits exist to change the world. Maybe we have different missions and we do it in different ways, but we all are here because of a vision for a better future. Part of that vision NEEDS to be Equity. For race, gender, socio-economic, religious, abilities and disabilities. When Nonprofit Network presents on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, one of the exercises we do is to examine peoples’ various identities and share how that has impacted their lives. We need to stop pretending that peoples’ lived experiences are not shaped by the color of their skin.
So what can your organization do? Because it is not enough to pay lip service to the idea of equity without actually DOING something about it. Here are some ideas:
I recognize that this is a heavy topic, even for those of us who are skin-privileged. But I dream of a world where my friends don’t have to teach their children not to put their hands in their pockets because it might be a death sentence if the wrong person feels threatened.
If your organization needs help with diversity, equity, and inclusion, feel free to reach out. You can visit our Diversity, Inclusion & Equity page for free tools and updates on upcoming events. As always, we’re here to help you make the world a better, safer, more equitable place.
Virtual Workshops vs Webinars
(what’s the difference and how to prepare?)
In order to answer that question I'll have you first review the definitions below...
> What is a webinar?
Short for web-based seminar, a webinar is a brief presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the web using video conferencing software.
> What is a virtual workshop?
Remote workshops are online meetings led by someone who teaches a new skill or technique to a group of participants using digital platforms and tools. The participants may either be in the same room or in separate physical spaces, but the person who leads the session is usually located elsewhere.
Online Workshops are how NN is helping you stay impactful and connected in the time of physical distancing.
NN Webinars: We offer what we like to call “Live Webinars”. These fast-paced and interactive presentations will cover the chosen topic quickly, in 45 minutes to an hour. Webinars are typically a trending topic, recorded and are easily saved and watched again and again. You can find previously recorded webinars in our Online Store.
NN Virtual Workshops: Workshops provide opportunities to facilitate and teach new skills, techniques and strategies to a group of participants. This requires the participants to work, think, process, create and plan. And now, in this time of Covid-19, Nonprofit Network is offering our workshops virtually using digital platforms and tools.
These Virtual Workshops replicate our in-person facilitation style, are engaging and requires participant dialogue. We use breakout rooms and have you participate with the facilitator via chat and and in small group conversations. You’ll also be able to ask questions and provide and receive feedback. Virtual workshops last from 2-4 hours and are best experienced when you share your camera, are in a quiet space where you don't have to be on "mute and can focus your attention on the topic.
For both our Webinars and our Virtual Workshops they are presented by one or more of our facilitators or in collaboration with a guest presenter. We use platforms like "Zoom" or Go To Meeting" which sometimes may require an application download. We provide you a web link, password and a copy of the presentation and any hand-outs ahead of time via email. This allows you to print the materials if you prefer, and also review them beforehand.
It is best and most convenient to participate with a Computer, notebook, or tablet but you can also join by phone. If joining by phone, you can either load the digital “App” on your cell phone, which will allow you to see cameras and fully utilize the tools available or, while not optimum for you, you can also simply dial-in with the provided phone number. You'll announce yourself to the facilitator, listen in and be able to participate in the workshop.
I hope you have found this helpful and all your questions have been answered, but if not I'm just an email away and happy to help! Tracey@NonprofNetwork.org
How to join a Zoom meeting, click HERE
How to join a GoToMeeting, click HERE
Additional Resources for Working Remotely are on our COVID-19 webpage
Executive Director @ NN
As our Stay at Home Order winds down, we have some decisions to make.
The pandemic has emphasized (didn’t reveal – we knew they were there all along) disparities, inequities and discrepancies. Need proof? Review the articles cited below;
We are hearing that we won’t return to normal. I am totally OK with that and am excited that we have an opportunity to work toward a new, improved better normal. And I want all of us to really focus on what we choose to be our new normal.
In an article entitled "For a More Equitable America, Understand Race and Racism as Actions We Do and Can Undo", the authors say this: "Americans have an opportunity to recognize and understand race in ways they never have before, ways that will help us transform and rebuild American society to be stronger and fairer to all."
As we re-create and fix our broken systems, every nonprofit must begin and/or strengthen the ways we are addressing social inequities, and this work must become part of our mission and be included in everything we do.
This will be hard work and will require us to fully address our own biases and how biases are baked into our systems.
The article asks us to reflect on some very difficult questions:
Nonprofit Network can help and provide everything from equity assessments of your policies, strategic plans around systems, tools, workshops and samples. Reach out to us and we can get you started.
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