• Thursday, February 20, 2020 9:51 AM | Katena Cain (Administrator)


    Katena Cain

    Nonprofit Management Consultant

    Katena@nonprofnetwork.org


    There is a consistent buzz about “equity” and “racial equity” in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors and among cross-sector collective impact efforts. This is a good thing, and our nation’s persistent and rising racial and economic disparities demand it. 

    Many groups are applying an “equity lens” to look outward at social problems and solutions, dis-aggregating data and seeking to differentiate opportunities and services to reduce imbalances.  

    But our organizations and collective efforts must begin by looking inward, using an “equity mirror” to examine our own composition, culture, and policies that reinforce and perpetuate these societal disparities.

    To do equity, we must also be equity.

    We need to move beyond conversation to meaningful action. Take a look at our Diversity page and take advantage of the Tools made available to you. Is your organization already implementing any of the suggested steps?

    In order to provide better direction and an "equity lens" we mentioned earlier, you should not miss out on these workshop opportunities:  

    Cross-Cultural Conversations
    ~ Advancing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Within Your Organization

    Bridges Out of Poverty Community Session

    Need to have a conversation about how to make better progress?  Reach out and we can make a plan together.


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  • Thursday, February 06, 2020 1:00 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)


    Laura Fuller

    Capacity Builder ~ Laura@NonprofNetwork.org

    Hopefully everyone knows that if they have a job, they should also have a position description.  But there are some people out there who don’t know that volunteers need them, too.  And having "position descriptions" for your volunteers will make recruiting them a LOT easier!

    Why? Well, there are several reasons.

    How many times have you been asked to do something as a volunteer, but the request was vague, or open-ended.  Maybe you agreed to it, maybe you didn’t, but regardless, you had no real idea what you were being asked to do?

    I remember my first time volunteering.  It was in high school.  Our high school required we perform a certain number of community service hours to graduate.  I loved animals (still do!) and so I volunteered to groom dogs at the local shelter.  I thought I’d be brushing them so that they’d look better for potential adopters.  NOPE!  My main job was to wash the matted feces out of dogs in the holding pens they had there for animal abuse cases. 

    I thought I would get to have some fun, interact with people looking for a pet, and play with the dogs.  I did not know I would spend my time getting soaking wet, covered in hair and "other stuff", and bathing dogs that didn’t like being touched, never-mind bathed. And all this took place in the isolated cold back part of the shelter. Fun way to spend a Saturday, right?  Not to mention the attachments I formed with these neglected animals, only to have them, more often than not, returned to their same situations, but at least a lot cleaner.

    Had I known all this going in, I would have probably passed on the opportunity. 

    Now, you may be thinking it smart not to tell people about the unpleasant parts of their volunteer commitment, because then they’re more likely to agree to volunteer.  But what does it get you to have an unhappy volunteer who then tells other people that they’re unhappy volunteering for you? Sure, even bad publicity is still publicity, but it isn’t the kind a nonprofit wants!

    Try and remember, different people have different things they consider unpleasant.  So while I wasn't one to prefer being alone with a dog giving it a bath, I maybe would have preferred cleaning kennels where I could talk to people.  Then their are people who would prefer only paperwork, and then the people who very much like talking on the phone. 

    Putting the lists of tasks you need your volunteers to do in a position description along with a possible time-frame to be assigned to those tasks would mean much better recruitment.  People can then make an informed decision, know what they are agreeing to, and hopefully give you positive GOOD publicity out of it.  A happy volunteer, after all, is one of your absolute best recruitment tools!

    So, spend some time.  Write those position descriptions.  Carry them with you and share them widely.  You’ll be glad you did.

    Don't miss - Volunteer Coordinator Networking - March 26th 8AM


    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.

    Contact Nonprofit Network to schedule a free discovery conversation



  • Tuesday, January 28, 2020 2:36 PM | Deleted user


    Regina Pinney

    Executive Director

    Regina@nonprofnetwork.org


    Our mission requires us to use our time wisely, be efficient and to get all the little things done to win big. I try and spend the last weeks of the year getting organized – This year it even ran into the first month of the new year... I clean, purge, plan, schedule, set goals, and created dashboards – it’s my happy place. As a planner by trade, I find great joy in doing all of this.

    I have done hundreds of strategic plans, and I know two things for sure:

    1- If the plan is out of sight, it’s out of mind. The plan – and planning – needs to be part of your everyday conversation.

    2- If the plan isn’t measurable – you will never be able to keep track of where you are. You don't know if you are winning the game unless you are keeping score.

    As I work hard to keep committed to my personal and professional goals and resolutions, I use lots of resources and tools to keep me organized and efficient. Anything that saves me time is an asset to me. Anything that keeps me focused on what’s important and allows me to advance my mission is worth my time.

    Here are 7 tools I have been using to ensure success and help me crush my goals:


    1.) Tracking business mileage. 

    I am using an app to keep track of my business mileage – the one I use is called MileageIQ – that actually prints my mileage reimbursement forms for me, from my phone, after it tracks "automatically" my business trips. Doing this by hand, after the fact, can take me hours and often I forget where I went.

    2.) Time keeping process. 

    We are using a program called Harvest that merges time keeping and projects. It allows for easy time study’s, collective planning and keeping on track with milestones and tasks.

    3.) Collaborative platforms. 

    We use Quip, Slack and Google Docs to work on collaboration, in unison and in alignment. We plan staff meeting agendas, create systems, and shared to-do lists using these tools and do our best to “work out loud”

    4.) Streamlined and consistent calendar. 

    Our office has gone to a “single calendar” – gone are the days of a yearlong planning calendar on the wall, a different on one our phones and an event calendar on the back of someone’s door. We all use one tool, Outlook, and all calendars are shared and collaborative.

    5.) No lost paper.

    I’ve also eliminated paper to do lists, scraps of paper and sticky notes taped to my computer monitor – I use one, Tasks – through Outlook, accessible anywhere, that pings me when things are due, helps me prioritize, allows me to instantly turn an email into a task and assign tasks to other staff members – and tells me when they have marked it complete.

    6.) Password security.

    I use a password keeper – the one I use is called Dashlane – and I only have to remember one password and it remembers all of my other ones.

    7.) Tangible milestones and accountability. 

    Schedule weekly or monthly check ins with your "accountability partner".  This might be a co-worker, spouse or friend. Ask these questions:  What did you do last week to accomplish your goal?  What went well? What didn't? What challenges will you face next week and how will you overcome them? What help do you need? 

    I’d love to hear your methods and ways that you keep track of what’s most important to you.

    Want to have a conversation about about establishing goals and identifying tools to help you crush them?



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  • Wednesday, January 22, 2020 9:26 AM | Regina Pinney (Administrator)


    Regina Pinney ~ Executive Director

    Regina@nonprofnetwork.org


    December is the giving month. According to Charity Navigator, 31% of annual giving occurs in the month of December and 12% of annual giving occurs on the last 3 days of the year. Which means that you will be sending lots of thank you’s in the New Year!

    How much planning have you done around the strategy and content of those thank you letters?

    If your answer is "little-to-none," then know this:

    The number 1 reason that people keep giving is because they were thanked well. 

    Let's dive in....

    The follow up and thank you to a gift is the most important step of the donor journey. Thoughtful and strategic follow-though helps you build a stronger bond with your donor, it connects them with the impact of their gift, and it communicates their active role in your success. 

    When done well, a thank you may be the reason a donor considers giving an increased gift next time. Remember, it costs less to retain a donor than it does to attract a new one. Fundraising expert Harvey McKinnon says “Donor loyalty is not about the donor being loyal to you, it is you being loyal to the donor.”


    Here are some simple strategies to ensure your thank you is impactful and works toward retaining your donors.

    1.     Make it prompt.

    • A really prompt thank you note impresses your donor. It indicates to them that your organization is well run.
    • A great rule of thumb is “Thank before you Bank” – meaning, put the thank you in the mail before you deposit the check.
    • During December or other high donation times, be sure to make time every day to work on your thank you’s.

    2.     Make it personal.

    • Use “I” and “we.”
    • Count the times you use the word “I/we” and make sure the number of times you use “you” is far greater. Give your donor all the credit.
    • Be warm – remember, you are thanking a friend
    • Use casual writing, this isn’t the time to be ultra –professional. Use contractions such as We’ll rather than We will.
    • Use an exclamation mark if appropriate.

    3.     Start in a personal way.

    • Yes: Dear Ms. Smith or better, Dear Jane - Never: Dear Friend.
    • Hint: use technology to help personalize the letter as much as possible.
    • Never, never, never begin with “on behalf of . . .”
    • Try “I’m so happy to hear from you!” or “You have made my day!”

    4.     Use a warm tone.

    • Be sincere.
    • Show thoughtfulness.
    • You spent all that time writing notes on the solicitation letters – but usually, a donor won’t read the solicitation letter but will read the Thank You! Use the space and the paper wisely!
    • Don’t forget to send warm wishes in the thank you!

    5.     Be emotional.

    • Don’t bury it. Wear your heart on your sleeve.
    • Try to convey excitement about what can happen with the donor’s gift.
    • “ I can’t begin to thank you enough for . . .”
    • “We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.”
    • “Because of your gift, a family will have . . . or a kid will get . . . art and music will . . . our water will be cleaner.”
    • "Your gift is helping to improve the lives of . . .”

    6.     Send a real letter, not a pre-printed card.

    • Never send a pre-printed card. It’s just too impersonal.
    • Your donor has just sent you their money. They are saying that they believe in you and trusts you.
    • Sending a pre-printed card is a turn off – no matter what the size of the gift.

    7.     Thank smaller gifts warmly.

    • All sized gifts get warm, prompt, personal thank yous.
    • Send thank yous for in-kind gifts

    8.     Refer to the donor’s past support if you possibly can.

    • Acknowledge the long term partnership your donor has with your organization.
    • Celebrate the ongoing relationship

    9.     Send more than one thank you letter.

    • All from different people at the organization – clients, other volunteers, other donors, etc.
    • In this day of shrinking donor dollars, this small step could help your organization stand out and forge a much stronger relationship with your donors.
    • Some organizations that bring stationery to the board meetings and have board members hand-write letters. This process helps connect board members to the fundraising process.

    10.    Offer a next step

    • Invite them to an upcoming event or encourage them to check out your website for interesting articles
    • Invite them to sign up for your emails or to subscribe to your Facebook or Instagram to see their donation in action
    • Note: You do NOT say “Please donate more!”

    We know that many donors don’t give again because they weren’t thanked properly. So remember the power of a strong thank you!

    Need some quick live coaching on how to strategically 

    write a good thank you letter?   

    Join our Webinar At Your Desk: Wednesday, Feb. 5th, 2020

    (Free for members)


    *Adapted from original Dec, 2017 post)

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  • Tuesday, January 14, 2020 2:57 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)


    Laura Fuller
    Capacity Builder

    laura@nonprofnetwork.org


    As someone who has been on both sides of the grant game, I still sometimes wonder who has the harder job: the person hoping for funding, or the person trying to decide which projects get funded.  Today I want to share with you some of the things that I look for when reading grant applications in hopes of helping you not to make these common mistakes.  While this list is not all comprehensive, it is a good jumping off point.  I have seen these common mistakes made over and over again, and it is always disappointing to have to throw out an innovative and exciting proposal for these reasons!

    1. Follow Directions!

    I cannot stress this enough.  While some grant applications are all "narrative" and "free form" and may only ask for a basic budget that you can include as a table, these are the exception, not the rule. When you have a stack of a hundred applications to read and you are only going to fund ten of them, the ones that don’t follow the directions and include all of the required pieces are easy cuts.  It may otherwise be an amazing, innovative idea that could change the world, but if you don’t follow the directions, then it is seen as a lack of competence and organization and makes your ability at follow through come into question.  Make a checklist and check it twice, cross your “T’s” and dot your “I’s” and don’t get weeded out in the first pass!

    2. Make sure your project is a good match for both the grant you’re writing and for the funder.

    There is nothing more irritating than reading a grant application and having to struggle to justify why the organization is applying for this particular grant.  Don’t try and stretch your mission just to chase dollars.  Funders notice mission creep, and it isn’t pretty.  If your organization is going after money that is outside of its mission and scope, then be prepared to make a REALLY good case for it. Fully explain why your organization will have the competence and the ability to complete the work you are proposing.

    3. Budget Carefully!

    Grants will require you to submit a budget, though the amount of detail can vary. When you are putting together your budget, make sure that the numbers make sense and there are allowed expenses. Don’t ask for the maximum amount just to pad your organizations budget, but actually give a good case as to why you need the amount you are requesting. Remember, the total number of grants funded might depend on the budget amounts requested.

    Usually, the board of readers rank the projects from the most innovative or complete to the least. Then the fiscal agent determines how many of them can be funded based on the requested amounts.  If the total pot of money available can be split among 5 organizations or 10 organizations depending on their budget, then the funder has to decide if they would rather make 10 smaller grants or 5 larger ones.  This preference will depend on the funder, so check their past awards (Form 990) and see how many of them are at the maximum grant amount. Check 990's HERE

    Need more tips, tricks and information? Join us at our upcoming Grant Writing Events;

    Jan. 29th 2020 - Webinar: Grant Writing - Lessons from the Front Line

    March 3rd, 2020 - FREE Workshop: Grant Writing's Optimum Role In Your Organization

    Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements about training opportunities.  We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox.  We only send on average one e-mail each week.

  • Thursday, January 09, 2020 3:52 PM | Katena Cain (Administrator)



    Katena Cain, PhD.

    Effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills are not merely valuable in the workplacethey are absolutely essential. "When employees understand how to communicate effectively and how to resolve conflicts, the natural outcome is a more productive environment."

    On January 16th, I am facilitating Crucial Conversations, a webinar that aims to build those communication skills that will strengthen your organization. By utilizing the techniques reviewed in this session, you will be able to communicate with less emotion and build stronger relationships when it counts.

    Participants will learn more about their own personal approach to handling conflict while gaining a better understanding of the consequences of conflict in a work setting. I will offer some tools that will help those in the room identify their own conflict resolution and communications styles.  

    I invite you and your fellow staff members to join me for this hour presentation, right from your desk and learn concrete tools that you can immediately use to strengthen your team. The webinar will serve as a basic introduction on appropriate words and emotional tone for business interactions.

    If you'd like to have a conversation about how to address the communication norms of your organization, or if you'd like to bring this to your organization as a training workshop please reach out to meI'd love to talk about how I might serve you! 


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  • Thursday, January 02, 2020 10:43 AM | Sharon Castle (Administrator)



    Sharon Castle

    Capacity Builder

    Sharon@nonprofnetwork.org


    “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 2020: 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.


    **Originally posted Dec. 2017, updated for Jan. 2020

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  • Thursday, December 19, 2019 3:52 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)


    The last six weeks of the calendar year can be the last opportunity for nonprofits to meet their annual budget.  In fact, by some accounts, 30% of ALL charitable gifts made in the United States are made in December.


    However, there are trends the wise nonprofit needs to be aware are happening.  Those who acknowledge this trend, consider modifications to their fund development efforts and take action could possibly avoid a nonprofit ill wind.

    My blog title references “The Grinch” because the trend is one of declining contributions and specifically a trend to give differently during this six week period of the year. A scholar named Amy Schiller recently wrote an article that speaks to the impact of the new tax laws and the report by Giving USA that tracks donations on an annual basis.  I want to share some of the wisdom from these sources.

    One note of caution: Due to the timing of data collection, we might be farther into this trend than the numbers tell us.  If that is so, taking corrective actions sooner rather than later may be that much more important.  (The 2019 Giving USA report analyzes donations made in 2018).

    So here’s the bad Grinchy news:  We know individuals give nearly 70% of all charitable gifts.  Except for one single category, all domestic giving by individuals across all recipient categories IS DOWN.  Total individual giving was down 3.4%.  Within recipient groups these declines ranged from, -3.9% to Religious Organizations (the largest recipient annually), -6% to Public Benefit like United Ways, -9.1% to Foundations, -3.7% to Education and -2.1% to Arts and Culture.  The sole domestic recipient that saw ANY increase was a +1.2% increase to the Environment/Animals.  And this giving is within the backdrop of one of the hottest economies the US has experienced for a while.

    Schiller also reports the trend of a decline in universal small gift giving.  She opines this universal giving my many has given way to what she refers to as “megadonors” giving extremely large gifts to fewer entities.  She shares that after the 2017 tax cuts, which raised the individual standard deduction to $12,000 removed some incentives for donors whose deductions didn’t reach that level.  The share of taxpayers who took the charitable deduction went from 24% of the taxpayers to just 8.5%.

    As you already know, this is a complex issue and requires a thoughtful deliberate action plan to address it.  The steps to address it will be varied from one nonprofit to another.  The solution will be one of knowing your donor base and possibly the courage to implement changes to your fund development approaches.  One tool available to you is your Nonprofit Network membership.  It entitles you to regular phone consultations with an expert.  If you need a thought partner on your next steps, give us a call to discuss it.




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  • Tuesday, December 10, 2019 8:19 AM | Tom Williams (Administrator)



    - Tom Williams, Capacity Builder

    No one likes to be rejected. This "fear" can hold us back from progress, including seeking the funds needed to meet our mission. We camouflage this fear sometimes with explanations like not having time or haven’t gotten around to it yet or even I don’t know that person.

    Eventually, asking people for money becomes a lower priority and we seek out less threatening ways of getting the money, like a new event or searching for additional grants.

    However, you should take note: Individuals are the leading funders of nonprofit organizations, contributing as much as 85% of all gifts to nonprofits, and those organizations with a broad base of financial support from many individuals are more sustainable for the future.

    Individual donors are an important part of your funding plan.

    One way this “fear-of-the-ask” can be overcome is by rearranging your fundraising perspective. Statistics say that a response of “no” is something to expect at least 50% of the time and this rarely has anything to do with you. Another reality to consider is that your request for funds provides the potential donors with an opportunity to make a difference in their community. Why would you want to deny them this privilege?

    If you are looking to overcome your fear, give us a call and let’s talk it through. Better yet, grab your board members, leadership staff, and some key volunteers and let's plan a workshop. It's always better to do something hard with the people who can help you and support the process.

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  • Wednesday, December 04, 2019 10:00 AM | Katena Cain (Administrator)


    Katena Cain, PhD.

    Nonprofit Management Consultant

    Katena@nonprofnetwork.org


    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. Now, it is not necessary for board members to walk around with every detail and statistic but 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. However, 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. 

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