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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.
Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter. Each week you'll get a link to the most recent news, workshops and blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one newsletter email each week and when any timely important announcements need to be made.
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)
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.
Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter. Each week you'll get a link to the most recent news, workshops and blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one newsletter email each week and then when any important announcements need to be made.
It’s time to breathe
Some of us have been holding our breath for so long we are at risk of becoming light headed. Breathe. Because it’s time to get “back” to work.
We all agree we are in uncharted waters. Never before have we experienced such a seismic shift in our communities, economy, work, life style and habits. Soon we will be asked to reemerge from our homes and find a new normal, a new way of life and a new way to work.
What will be the same – if anything – and how much will have changed? And what are things that will continue to change?
Many experts have assessed the landscape, like The Nonprofit Finance Fund, and SeaChange Capital Partners who have conducted a survey which resulted in some hard truths. Sixty percent of nonprofits reported they were experiencing "destabilizing conditions that threaten long-term financial stability."
NFF COVID-19 Survey and COVID-19 could mean extinction for many charities
Many of us will not survive unless we take very aggressive and proactive measures to protect our futures. And even then, this virus will take very healthy, young and vibrant nonprofits all too soon.
OK, breathe. So, what are these measures?
We need to ask ourselves some very hard questions:
You can also find more ideas and strategies here: COVID-19 Coverage: Financial Sustainability and In Times Of Crisis, Don't Create Your Own
Reach out to your peers and to us, for support. We can help you brainstorm, strategize and ensure that you have turned over every leaf and rock. We can help you with the heavy lifting.
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 news and blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one newsletter email each week and one other email when and if we have an announcement.
Self Care Activities You Can Do In 10 Minutes or Less
1. Pet your dog or cat. As you do so, focus on the softness of their fur, and the repetitive motions. If you don’t have a pet, use a fluffy pillow, blanket or sweater!
2. Do a few Affirmations. Positive self-statements can bring more confident self-talk into your day and they force you to say nice things to yourself where you usually wouldn’t. There are many resources online, choose a statement each day and take 5 minutes to say it out loud to yourself at least 10 times. Really focus on the statement, don’t argue with yourself against it!
3. Accept a compliment. While not something you can plan, accepting compliments can go a long way in improving your self-esteem. Think about it. Every time you reject a compliment, you are filling your head with excuses and negative self-talk. Instead, when someone compliments you, say thank you and SMILE!
4. 10 Deep Breaths. Breathe. How often are we really aware of our breathing (other than when the respiratory virus is going around, or it’s allergy season…). Instead, sit and focus on your breathing. Ten deep, slow breaths can calm you, slow your heart rate, and bring you to a resting state.
5. Stretch. Stand up and lift your arms over your head, then touch your toes (if you can!). Stand back up slowly, and let your head roll from side to side gently and slowly.
6. Message a loved one. We get so wrapped up in work, routine, and all the stress in our lives that it can be easy to forget our loved ones. Send a text to a friend or family member and let them know you’re thinking about them.
7. Watch a funny YouTube clip. Laughter is great medicine for stress. Personally, I love watching dogs do ridiculous things, but there are lots of blooper reels out there, too!
8. Make a cup of herbal tea. This not only makes you step away from the computer a few minutes, but depending on the tea you choose, it can also be a natural mood booster.
9. Try zentangles. Zentangles is the creation of art through repetitive patterns. It can be relaxing and improve focus and concentration.
10. Talk a walk. Outside, inside, or even in place. The point is to get up, get the blood moving, and feel better.
1) Ongoing, cyclical orientation. Just because you’ve been on a particular 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 life-cycle, 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 then the community sees and benefits from the mission work accomplished.
6) More funding. There are over 51,000 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 May 14th 2020 for (free) Board Recruitment and in September for (free) Foundations of Board Governance both generously sponsored by:
*blog updated from Aug. 2016
I need you to be normal. I’m serious. Or at least act normal. Our employees, boards, community, peers, and clients are watching us. And it is so critical for us to act settled – and quickly normalize – so that we can continue serving our missions.
You have been working hard towards an organization that can adapt, change and accommodate the ever-changing needs of the community you serve. Now its time to put that hard work to into action.
As you have - we moved all of our offices into home offices. We had to rethink every routine (and perfect in every way) procedures – like depositing a check, approving an invoice, presenting a workshop, staying connected with each other, earning revenue, and serving people! It was hard – but we now have a new system in place and a system to evaluate if its working. Are these new systems perfect – not yet. But these new systems are now our "normal".
We added a COVID-19 webpage and scheduled open phone calls. Every day there is a new opportunity for you to join a conversation to process out all of this new information and determine what to do with it. We've had so many people join and we're so appreciative of the opportunity to connect with everyone. We will continue to host these conversations and we hope you will join us to share your new normal!
On a positive note, I have been enjoying the responses from the entertainment community – the “free” streaming performances from John Legend on his Instagram account, the free operas and Broadway plays streaming on demand, the YMCA is streaming exercise classes online and all of the opportunities to be read to. We need to follow suit. Is this ideal – nope. But does it offer some sense of normalcy – yes! Let’s learn from these examples and find new ways to connect, deliver and serve.
Have questions? We're here to help you - Our Staff
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