• Wednesday, July 03, 2019 9:11 AM | Tracey McClafferty (Administrator)

    It’ been over two years since I blogged on embezzlement and regrettably, I’m feeling compelled to revisit this dark topic.  The recent situation that sparked this writing is my learning of a familiar organization experiencing a valued staffer that embezzled a six figure amount of the money donated to their mission.  As I shared in my previously blog, this sickens me professionally and saddens me for the work of all the great people that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars now being for naught.  Disgustingly this action succeeds when we drop our complete nonstop attention to safeguards.

    While I certainly encourage you to dig through our Nonprofit Network blog library and read “3 Dangerous Myths About Nonprofit Embezzlement”, today I want to share a different insight that may generate conversations within your organization.

    Did you know that 93% of people who embezzled funds NEVER had a criminal record before?  This fact from Marquette Report on Embezzlement is one that deserves some sincere reflection.  Ponder the implications of this data about the 3,000+ embezzlers the Michigan State Police see annually (for profit and nonprofit).  This means that all our safeguards are not to stop criminals from taking our organization’s hard earned money.  Our safeguards are actually intended to eliminate an opportunity for a “trusted” person to take advantage of our negligence and take their first step over to the dark side. 

    Embezzlement is legally categorized as “fraud” and many of you are familiar with the “fraud triangle”. This helpful triangular diagram helps us clarify that fraud happens when: 1) There is a perceived OPPORTUNITY to commit fraud, 2) This OPPORTUNITY is experienced by a person experiencing a perceived pressure in their lives and 3) That person rationalizes the action they are about to take. 

    See the source image

    This person who rationalizes their integrity away can’t fully complete their action of becoming a criminal if we make it extremely difficult for them.  The element of reducing OPPORTUNITY is the key portion of the fraud triangle our organization has control over.  However, having our antenna up to monitor the other two elements will also prove beneficial.  In nonprofit terms, this is often called “oversight”.

    I don’t want to naively suggest we can entirely eliminate the crime of embezzlement (or any crime really), but since we as leaders of nonprofits are expected to provide “oversight” and be solid stewards of other people’s resources, employing best practices to fulfill our responsibilities can truly be impact-full.  While a phone call to me or one of my colleague consultants can assist you in this conversation, I also want to strongly encourage your organization to participate in our financial workshops that delve into internal controls and appropriate policies to establish solid safeguards against embezzlement. I do want to suggest that this small time and dollar commitment can safeguard your organization against one of the most gut wrenching experiences a nonprofit leader will ever experience.  

    If you promise to harden your financial safeguards, I promise my next blog will be more uplifting…deal?

    Tom Williams
    Capacity Builder

  • Friday, June 21, 2019 11:47 AM | Tracey McClafferty (Administrator)

    Regina Pinney Profile Photo today

    Regina Pinney
    Nonprofit Network Executive Director

    Census 101: What You Need to Know 

    The 2020 Census is closer than you think. Here’s a quick refresher of what it is and why it’s essential that everyone is counted.

    Nonprofits Matter

    Nonprofits will play a crucial role in the 2020 Census to make sure the communities you serve are properly represented in the Census, especially in communities that are hard to count or traditionally under-counted like those experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ+, racial minorities and many more.  Now is the time to get informed and make a plan. 

    Everyone Counts

    The census counts every person living in the U.S. once, only once, and in the right place.  If you don’t complete the census – you don’t get counted.  And for the next ten years, you lose your opportunity to be seen when decisions are made about road funding, funding for programs like food assistance and schools, and when redistricting happens.

    It’s about fair representation

    Every 10 years the results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets and where those lines are drawn.  Historically, people of color, people who live in poverty and many other marginalized and disenfranchised populations don’t complete the census which means they get misrepresented in these conversations.

    It’s in the constitution

    The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years. The first census was in 1790.  Census information is confidential.  This is the first year that the census will be conducted primarily through the internet bringing the Census into the age of technology. This saves the taxpayer money and will decrease the cost of the Census. 

    It’s about $675 billion

    The distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on census data.  That Money is spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.  It’s important for nonprofits because Census data is used for grant making, design of where programs should be created and where populations who might need additional services are located. 

    It’s about redistricting

    After each decade’s census, state officials redraw the boundaries of the congressional and state legislative districts in their states to account for population shifts. An accurate count is essential for fair representation. 

    Taking part is your civic duty

    Completing the census is mandatory: it’s a way to participate in our democracy and say “I COUNT!”

    Learn more HERE

  • Tuesday, June 18, 2019 2:53 PM | Tracey McClafferty (Administrator)

    Power of the Paraphrase banner picture

    While recently attending Adaptive Schools Foundation training whose goal is to “develop the collective identity and capacity of organization members as collaborators and inquirers and leaders,” I experienced déjà vu.

    Our facilitator, Carolyn McKanders, was excellent; thoughtful, interesting and chock full of facilitation strategies.  The audience was mainly teachers and school administrators and then there was me, a part-time capacity building consultant whose role is to help nonprofit Executive Directors and Board Members be more effective.

    Navigating four days of training, what came to my mind was that this was a variation, aimed at groups instead of individuals, of the empathy skills training I learned and later taught oh so many years ago (dare I say 40…) at Gryphon Place, a fabulous crisis intervention center in Kalamazoo Michigan.  I say fabulous because I believe it saved my life and provided tools and skills which my husband and I called upon frequently while raising two beautiful children.  But that’s another story…Suffice it to say that Gryphon Place will always have a special place in my heart.

    The Adaptive Schools “Seven Norms of Collaborative Work” banner hangs in the Nonprofit Network conference room and lays out the steps to successful collaborative work:  Pausing; Paraphrasing; Posing Questions; Putting Ideas on the Table; Providing Data; Paying Attention to Self and Others; Presuming Positive Intentions.  

    Seven Norms of Collaborative Work banner picture

    Our Executive Director, Regina Pinney, lauds McKanders and Adaptive Schools as being “life changing.”  Travel back 40 years and Gryphon Place was my life changer…So, what powerful life changing skills training do the Adaptive Schools and Gryphon Place models have in common?  Drum roll please…PARAPHRASING!  McKanders’ explanation is that a significant role of the brain’s function is to keep us safe and a major part of safety is assuring our brain that we are being heard, validated and understood (my contribution).  Pretty basic stuff but, WOW, life changing indeed.

    In addition to a myriad of resources we, at Nonprofit Network, utilize these and other Adaptive Schools strategies when facilitating, coaching and teaching to assist our clients become better Executive Directors and Board Members.

    So, what’s your takeaway and how can Gryphon Place and Adaptive Schools models help you in your professional and personal life?  The answer is simple.  Whether interacting with colleagues, volunteers, board members or your spouse or children, use this pattern:  Listen, Paraphrase, Ask Questions, Discuss Ideas, Provide Information, Pay Attention to yourself and Others, and Assume Positive Intentions.

    For more information check out volunteer opportunities, crisis intervention and other services at www.Gryphon.org or to learn more about Adaptive Schools training opportunities and other resources visit www.thinkingcollaborative.com.

    Sharon Castle Bio picture

    Sharon Castle

    Capacity Builder 


  • Thursday, March 28, 2019 10:14 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)


    We know that working together as a group to get better is time well spent.  In the long run, it also saves time, resources and reduces disengagements and frustration. But getting people in the same room to devote the time might be the biggest challenge. Professional development is so important, but scheduling more time together is often difficult to coordinate as a group.

    Nonprofit Network has developed a solution: Fundamental Conversations for Nonprofit Boards. Our team of experts have created this 7-part video course that prepares and frames your crucial conversations around board governance.

    You can now offer your board professional development when it is most convenient for you. Each of the 7 videos is just 10 minutes or fewer and comes with a corresponding Discussion Guide.

    Individuals can watch on their own before a meeting to discuss as a group during a meeting, or you can view each video as a group over the course of several months—or even all at once in a retreat setting.  

    This course frames and directs each conversation, allowing you to focus on whats most important for your organization. 

    The course is $50 for members and $75 for nonmembers. 

    Click here for more details: Online Store


  • Wednesday, December 19, 2018 1:43 PM | Sharon Castle (Administrator)

    Sharon Castle

    Capacity Builder


    “One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.”

    -Anne M. Mulcahy, Former CEO and Chairwoman, Xerox

    As we enter a new year, it seems all but impossible to not think about ways in which we hope to improve over the past and establish good habits. The challenge, of course, is sticking to our resolutions and embedding them into our lives so a year from now we can look back with the pride of knowing at least one of our resolutions stuck. 

    Here’s a resolution challenge for 2018: succession planning.

    Succession planning doesn’t just happen, but (and this is a big BUT) it doesn’t have to, and frankly, shouldn’t be a separate organizational activity. Upon realizing we are all dispensable and “things” happen, one habit I developed many years ago, was to always do my work so that anyone could take over at any time. Not only was a succession planning mindset great for the organization, but it also benefited me personally. 

    Think about the planning you have to do before going on vacation, taking maternity/paternity leave or caring for an ill child or parent. If you create succession habits regularly, anyone should be able to pick up the mantle of your job.

    Throughout my career. folks who took over positions from which I moved on have gone out of their way to thank me for “leaving a trail that was easy to follow.” How did I do it? It was easy once I approached my job with a succession planning mindset. In this digital age, it is easier than ever to insure that our successors have every advantage at succeeding.

    So, how do we embed succession planning in our daily work lives?

    • Establish a well-ordered, simple filing system for digital and manual files
    • Create a (insert your title here) “how to” manual file and include:
      • Updated job description for your position 
      • Updated job description for any position reporting to you
      • Updated organizational chart
      • Annual goals and objectives for your areas of responsibility—Review/update these goals and objectives quarterly
    • Create and maintain project folders and “next step” notes on ongoing projects
    • When starting a task, ask yourself, “If I had never done this before, what would I need to know?” and document the steps to complete the task for inclusion in your “how to” manual file
    • Develop KISS (keep it simple stupid!) systems that are easily followed
    • Don’t reinvent the wheel; create templates for all documents used on a fairly regular basis
    • Communicate regularly with co-workers about important projects
    • Mentor a colleague
    • Give continuous/helpful feedback to staff under your supervision
    • When attending a webinar, reading an article or joining a professional organization, include a brief summary of why the particular activity was helpful to your professional development

    Need help getting started? We can assist you with establishing good succession planning habits in your day-to-day operations or with developing a succession plan.

    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 13, 2018 8:47 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)

    Today, if nonprofits had all the money in the world, they still wouldn't be able to scale their missions to make true and lasting difference.

    The Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector (2017) found that four of five nonprofits struggle with leadership and management and only 11% are prepared to scale for optimal impact.

    Most nonprofits are struggling with weak board governance, fundraising and impact evaluation and, as a result, are not ready or able to scale to increase their impact.

    We can all do better.

    Simple strategies, effective tools and sometimes even an “easy button” can transform your organization and help you scale for optimal impact.

    Nonprofit Network’s mission is to help you address these issues without taking your eye off what matters most to you.

    For 20 years, we have existed as a direct result of the expressed needs of the community. Nonprofits, funders and leaders know that organizations need technical assistance, expert advice and assistance so that investments are leveraged and missions are impactful.

    And we are scaling up our impact.

    Nonprofit Network provides professional development opportunities, a broad range of consulting services and on-demand tools, resources, advice and coaching.

    Our expert facilitators, coaches and trainers provide trusted guidance and assessment for your specific needs. From strategic planning services to “quick questions,” we can help you be stronger.

    We meet you where you are and provide you with a selection of affordable and relevant services, including:

    • In-depth organizational assistance
    • Trusted information and referrals
    • Ongoing nonprofit board and management essentials

    We can help prepare you for optimal impact through strategic planning, leadership development and improved fundraising strategies.

    Each organization is unique. Nonprofit Network customizes services that take your available resources into consideration—like time, money, energy—to create a process that will work for your specific needs.

  • Friday, September 07, 2018 12:08 PM | Deleted user

    Sharon Castle
    Capacity Builder

    Question:  On a scale of 1 – 10, how important is a nonprofit board of directors?

    Answer:  10+

    If building a strong board is tantamount to running a healthy, vibrant and successful nonprofit organization, how do we build a dynamic board? 

    While the answer is complex, there are strategies you can use to enhance your success.

    1) Identify your organization’s needs. Look for a tool or establish a method that will help in the evaluation of the board’s make-up as it relates to the Board structure and organizational needs.  Some of the areas of focus will likely be finance, fundraising, marketing, human resources, program participants or folks who utilize your organization’s services. 

    2. Evaluate your current board to see if they fulfill these criteria and if not, identify the gaps.

    Now that you’ve identified gaps where do you look for potential Board Members?

    3. Review donor lists.  Someone who is giving financial support to your organization clearly has a passion for the work you do and having a passion for the work is essential for Board members.  If someone is a donor and has the skills you are looking for, you may have a great recruit.

    4. Utilize the web.  LinkedIn has a great tool you can use to “search for a skill” or “experience you need” for your nonprofit.  You can also post your volunteer opportunity. 

    5. Don’t necessarily look at someone who serves on many boards. Do look to see who has been an effective leader on a board.

    6. Develop job descriptions that identify clear expectations.  No one likes surprises or wasting time.  Does your board have a policies on board giving and board meeting attendance?  Are Board members expected to serve on committees?  Be up front with recruits.  I would rather have someone say “no” to serving on the board then say “yes” and not have a clue about what they are getting into.

    7. Consistently provide Board members with organizational information and choose a section to review at periodic Board meetings.  Information should include your mission (I am always impressed – and not in a good way – when Board members don’t know an organization’s mission), copy of current budget, most recent strategic plan, annual Board and development calendars.

    Now you’ve got them, how do you keep them engaged? 

    8. Adhere to the Board calendar. Remembering Board meetings should not just be comprised of a report from the E.D.  Boards should be setting the organization’s vision, asking questions about the budget and other financial issues, and discussing how they are going to assist in garnering the financial resources to meet the mission.

    9. Invite a donor to share why they support your organization or a recipient of services to share their experience to periodic board meetings.  This would be the first item on the agenda and after the visitor leaves, engage in a conversation about why the donor gives and possibly, who might also like to give (prospecting) or how could your programs be better, friendlier or easier to access.

    Take your time and don’t just fill vacancies; get the right people.

    Ready to take your board engagement strategies to the next level?  Enroll your board in the Foundational Conversations: Guided Video Discussion Course today.

  • Friday, September 07, 2018 9:49 AM | Deleted user


    Katena Cain
    Nonprofit Management Consultant

    Starting a nonprofit organization is an exciting way to make an impact in your community.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this community of do-gooders? Well, with over 1.8 million nonprofits in the United States and roughly 43,000 in Michigan, ensuring the sustainability and longevity of a nonprofit are not easy tasks. It takes a solid foundation, a strong board of directors, a willing group of volunteers, and lots of dedication. Resources can be scares, and receiving your tax exemption status is just the beginning of the work that lies ahead. Here are three things to consider when starting a nonprofit organization.

    1) Research, research, research!

    With almost 2 million nonprofits out there, your vision and ideas may not be unique. Therefore, when considering to start a nonprofit begin by asking yourself the following questions:

    • Is there any organization out there doing similar work and would it make sense to partner instead of duplicating what is already being done?
    • Is my vision truly unique?
    • What is the intended purpose of the organization?
    • Do I have enough resources (i.e. time and financial) for filing fees, licenses, infrastructure, supplies, costs to deliver services, and operations space?
    • What is my timeline?
    • What nonprofit status makes sense for the work that I am trying to accomplish?

    Once you have completed your research and still want to start a nonprofit, begin the process of documenting your idea, mission, and vision as well as the formation path in a detailed business plan.


    2) Incorporate and Establish

    After documenting your plan, mission and vision, your next step is to complete all of the necessary paperwork and steps that are required to obtain your nonprofit status. Some of these things include, determining a unique business name, obtaining your EIN number, filing your Articles of Incorporation, completing charitable licensing paperwork, completing your bylaws and filing for your nonprofit status (IRS form 1023 for 501c3 and IRS form 1024 for 501c4).

    Another critical piece of this process is to establish a Board of Directors of no less than 3 individuals. This group is very important and requires a large commitment from them because they will be legally responsible to help your organization meet its mission and vision.

    Draft your bylaws with your Board of Directors' guidance. This will be your operator’s manual for your nonprofit. You will need to have a copy of these for filing your Articles of Incorporation and will need to submit these when applying for your federal tax-exemption. Your board will also be critical in assisting you with policy formation and financial development planning.


    3) Work Your Mission and Stay Compliant

    Once your nonprofit status is approved, your goal is now to ensure its success and sustainability. To do this, you will need to work your mission, develop policies, build a strong board, maintain a solid financial plan, and file your IRS 990 tax form annually to keep your tax-exempt status.

    Starting a nonprofit takes a lot of work.  Nonprofit Network is here to help you along the way. 

    Attend Starting a Nonprofit and we'll take you through the process and provide you with a copy of our Guide to Starting a Nonprofit.

  • Friday, August 03, 2018 10:41 AM | Deleted user

    Leading a nonprofit organization is a lot like training for an athletic competition.  It requires consistent training, practice, and a plan to succeed.  An athlete never gets to check the box off next to a basic skill. It doesn't matter how many time she's run that drill—she still reviews, practices, adapts when necessary, and keeps training.  

    In the same way, a board of directors is never past the need for board governance training.  Seasons, needs, rosters, and experiences are just some of the variables that change the environment in which a nonprofit lives. All board members benefit from regular governance training.  So let's talk about what some of those benefits include:

    1)  Ongoing, cyclical orientation.  Just because you’ve been on this board awhile doesn’t mean you know everything. Asking naive questions helps strengthens the board as individuals and as a whole. Making governance training and conversations a regular part of your conversation helps to ensure that all board members—both new and old alike—are on the same page.
    2)  All nonprofits have a lifecycle, which means that no two organizations need the same board—you need to be equipped to give your organization the most relevant skills, perspective, and leadership based on where it is and what it needs.  No two boards are alike.  If you’ve served on a board, then you’ve served on one board. Know where your organization is in its life cycle and seek deep understanding on what your board needs to provide.
    3) You are legally liable for the organization. When you know what you’re liable for, you will make informed, responsible decisions.  Board training can inform that process and may provide you with the information that will protect you.
    4)  More efficient meetings, more effective decisions. When a board is well-trained and each member knows their role, things run more smoothly. Meetings become more engaging and decisions are more thoughtful and strategic. Who doesn’t want that?
    5)  Increased impact.  A board made of trained and informed experts is one that advocates for its organization and inspires action. Staff are motivated to perform and the community sees the mission work accomplished.
    6)  More funding. There are over 42,000 nonprofits in the state of Michigan alone.  Your organization literally cannot afford to operate with a mediocre, meets-expectations board.  There are tens of thousands of organizations seeking the same donors, seeking the same funding—if you want rise above the rest, you need to be on top of your game.

    At the end of the day, it's up to the board to make sure that a nonprofit is fulfilling its purpose—that it is advancing its mission and making true, lasting impact on the community.  Board governance training plays a crucial role in that success.

    Join us in Battle Creek on Wednesday, August 15 for Foundations of Board Governance

    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.

  • Tuesday, July 17, 2018 9:48 AM | Deleted user

    Victoria Reese
    Capacity Builder


    Grant reviewers have to quickly sift through numerous applications to narrow the pool to those most promising. The proliferation of nonprofit organizations and increased competition for resources calls on organizations to write stellar grant proposals to secure funding.

    How do you set your organization apart from the competition when several of you are vying for the same dollars?

    Don’t let a poorly written proposal finds its way into the “no” pile because you didn’t give adequate time and thought to the process. Awareness of successful strategies may be all you need to get the jump on the competition.

    Here are 6 strategies to make Your grant application stand out in a competitive world:

    1. Research! Research! Research!

    Find a funder that fits. Don’t just chase the dollars. Make sure the funder and opportunity aligns with your mission and values.

    2. Do your homework.

    Provide a creative/compelling solution to a community problem in the narrative. Be succinct. Tell who is going to benefit, how, and why it’s important. Your narrative should support your niche and be backed by trends and data. This is your chance to gloat.

    3. Demonstrate competence.

    Provide a clear understanding of your experiences, expertise, and resources that qualifies your organization to be best suited to carry out the work.

    4. Collaborate.

    Many organizations cringe at the thought of this however, collaborative efforts often see wider impact. Sometimes, the most unlikely partners will allow us to meet our consumer’s needs in ways not previously thought so think outside the proverbial box.

    5. Outcome evaluation.

    As you consider sustainability it is important to ensure that you can meet your deliverables and tell the story of what has changed for your participants, community, or families as a result of your program. Being able to do so is critical in receiving future funding from the grantor.

    6. Give careful thought to your budget.

    It should reflect the story told in the narrative and provide a clear connection to the goals you want to establish. The budget provides the framework and an inflated or unrealistic budget can ruin a solid grant proposal.

    Unfortunately, all grant applications are not funded but denial is not failure. Use these opportunities to reassess, ask for feedback, and make adjustments moving forward.

    Looking for more help?  Attend Grant Writing's Optimum Role In 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.

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