Simple, yet empowering charitable investment ideas

Millions of investments are made on a regular basis, mostly for personal or corporate gain. What if a million investments were made each day for the benefit of the community, country, and world? Just because there’s uncertainty with our economy doesn’t mean it needs to be that way with benevolence. Here are a few charitable investment ideas for you to consider.

  • Invest your time to advance an organization’s mission;
  • Invest in a future leader by mentoring;
  • Invest some money to meet a community need;
  • Invest a smile to brighten another’s day;
  • Invest your professional skills to complete a critical task;
  • Invest your voice to cheer and celebrate;
  • Invest a meal to help feed another;
  • Invest a little sweat to set up an event;
  • Invest an idea to create innovative change;
  • Invest compassion to help others;
  • Invest an invitation to encourage others to join you;
  • Invest your attention toward creative ways of giving;
  • Invest a jacket to warm another;
  • Invest hands to change the world;
  • Just Invest…the list can go on and on

Some of these investments can be measured, others provide intangible results. In all cases, the ROI generated is life changing…for the “investor” and each beneficiary.

If you’re interested or ready to make a charitable investment of any kind, give us a call at 775-333-9444 or email us. Our team at NPcatalyst can help you or your company create an empowering charitable investment strategy, find the ideal charitable organization(s), and embrace your own way of giving.

Board Retreats – Do they need advanced planning?

Strong organizations are governed by outstanding leaders. Fueled with passion, experience, and commitment, the board members of non-profit organizations play vital roles in the direction, management and impact of these groups.

The strength of this leadership…and engagement…isn’t always immediately felt upon creating the board or recruiting the new board member. As with many great things, the strength of the board is developed over time, through active involvement, and organizational understanding. One proven method to mature leadership and, at the same time, create organizational opportunity is by conducting annual board retreats.

Board retreats are integral to each non-profit organization’s success. They present opportunities to plan for the future by blending the vast amount of leadership, experience, skills, and ideas of the board’s members. As a result, organizations run more smoothly, where board members are more connected, and the interpersonal relationships of board and staff are strong.

Retreats serve as great “starts” or re-freshers for both organizations and their leaders. The most successful retreats…those which set the stage for future success…follow four key steps.
1. Planning – defining the purpose; planning meetings; self-assessment; presentation materials
2. Engagement – clear agenda; board “buy in”; interactive and fun
3. Strategy – creating goals and action steps; measurable results
4. Follow-Through – developed through committee meetings; presented/reviewed at board meetings

A successful retreat hinges on the work of a well-focused team (board and staff), an interested and skilled facilitator, and a proactive agenda. Its success relies on the “buy in” and active involvement of its board members. This enables the board to openly challenge assumptions, address issues, foster interpersonal relationships, improve productivity, understand and clearly represent the mission/message, and develop strategies.

Have you scheduled your next board retreat? Whether it’s to address your organization’s board development, mission/vision, messaging/public relations, fund development, and/or strategic planning, now is the time to invest in your non-profit’s future.

Five Rs of Fundraising

While you’re raising funds for a charitable organization, there’s one approach to generating donations that’s sure to prove successful. Consider how much time and effort goes into planning small and major special events.  Now, imagine that same effort strategically targeted toward cultivating a lifetime donor…a fan who loves and supports your organization and its mission over the long term.  This single concept, so often ignored, can make the difference between surviving from event to event and having a steady stream of program-sustaining money coming into your nonprofit.  Nothing will net rewards with your donors like relationship building.

The “Five Rs of Fundraising” was created roughly 25 years ago, while on staff at Fraternity Management Group. Its application, however, can be used by all non-profit organizations. While many organizations believe that coordinating special events is an ideal method for raising funds, building relationships with current and prospective donors generates far greater sustainability. You may want to consider the following Five Rs of fundraising:

Research
This forms a solid basis of understanding of your organization’s fundraising endeavors, not to mention its individual constituent relations. From basic records management to in-depth interviews, information is key to success. With proper research, the interests, needs, charitable backgrounds, professional experiences, personal connections and links to your organization are identified and recorded.

Recruiting
This phase is going on constantly, but primarily during the same time frame as heavy research. Volunteer leaders, including development committee members, board members, and campaign steering chairpersons play integral roles in successful fundraising campaigns. The amount of work involved and the number of prospective contributors and volunteers connected with the organization, who must be contacted, requires proper recruitment and management.

Romance
Commonly called cultivation, this is perhaps the most important part of the process. All contact with prospective contributors is a form of cultivation. Every newsletter, email, phone call, tweet or Facebook message, event, and publicity item serves to inform and pique the interest your organization’s potential supporters. Romancing these prospective major donors, volunteers, and community leaders occurs on a regular basis leads to strategic and successful solicitations. The goal is to encourage prospects to become actively engaged and connected.

Request
This is the good part, where individual prospects are asked, or invited, to invest in the organization. It’s important to note that the levels of gift size and donor satisfaction are increased with proper romancing or cultivation. Actual soliciting of contributions is carried out by key organization leaders and volunteers who are personally engaged in the organization and connected to the person(s) being solicited.

Recognition
Early, frequent, and creative ways to thank volunteers and donors will insure that they stay involved and invested in your organization. It breeds proper stewardship of future donations of time and dollar. It also sets a pattern which other prospects will notice, which be a determining factor when they’re asked to contribute funds.

Every contact, with every individual prospect, involves one or more of the Five R’s. Planning ahead and maximizing the effectiveness of those contacts is what will drive your organizations closer to its fundraising goal.

 

Things to consider when making donations

Making donations to charitable organizations can be a very strategic, methodical, and evaluative process. For many, the donations are more than mere “gifts”, they’re actually investments in causes, organizations, needs, and beneficiaries. A key component of the donor-decision process is quality information. When working with our clients on their giving strategies, we advise an analysis of organizations in five functional areas of charitable operations.

Data & Efficiency

Be sure to look at the organization’s finances to determine such things as proper allocation of funds between administration, programs, fundraising, etc. We recommend using Guidestar to review the organization’s 990 provide sufficient data for an initial screening, enabling donors with a good look at financial performance.

Finance & Fund Development

Non-profits have an obligation to act as responsible stewards in managing their financial resources. This includes compliance with financial requirements, sound accounting principles, and fiscal responsibilities. Since non-profits act as the intermediary between donors and beneficiaries, they have an ethical obligation to ensure proper handling of funds to carry out their missions.

Governance

A non-profit’s leadership, represented by its staff and board of directors is responsible for defining the organization’s mission and for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to the organization. Strong boards strive to ensure that their organizations have adequate resources, provide direction for the executive director and key staff and, evaluate their own effectiveness as governing bodies.

Human Resources

The ability of an organization to make effective use of the energy, time and talents of its employees and volunteers is essential to accomplish the organization’s mission. Exercising fair and equitable practices that attract and retain qualified volunteers and employees is just one best practice. Nonprofits have an obligation to adhere to all applicable employment laws and to provide a safe and productive work environment.

Public Information

Non-profits that provide information to prospective donors and other constituents promote informed and responsible philanthropy. This works to their advantage as donors are better able to make decisions when they can learn a nonprofit’s purpose, who governs it, how it manages its financial resources, whom the nonprofit serves, and what progress it has made toward achieving its mission.

Ideally, donors placing their “investments” with organizations are doing so through strong existing relationships. However, whether donors are already engaged with these organizations or have yet to meet their leaders, taking an in-depth look at these five areas will help solidify the receipt, usage, distribution, and recognition of financial contributions.

 

 

HealthCheck rating tool gathering attention

 

The charity rating and best practice tool, created by NPcatalyst this past January, is becoming increasingly popular with non-profit donors, volunteers, and job-seekers.

The tool was designed to address two distinct, yet critical needs. First, it’s designed to rate charities in five management and performance areas, giving organizations an objective instrument from which to guide their goals and strategies. Second, it’s used as a research mechanism, providing donors with “insider” information, which they can’t immediately or easily find online or through non-profit manuals.

“Launching a new product in a tough industry, especially a product which we created, has been both exciting and difficult,” says Pete Parker, NPcatalyst’s managing partner. It’s taken a considerable effort to educate non-profit organizations as well as business, community, and philanthropic leaders to adapt this innovative tool. “I wanted to create a tool which gives donors a true and in-depth view of non-profit organizations, enabling them to make thought out and well-researched donation decisions.”

The HealthCheck tool analyzes and applies a rating score to organizations in five different operational areas. NPcatalyst publicizes the scores on profile pages create for each charity. “To promote the HealthCheck tool, I’ve been screening the financial efficiencies for organizations located in the three locations where we’re seeing the heaviest traffic of donors and leaders,” says Parker. To date, 200 organizations have been screened and featured on the NPcatalyst website.

As a result of social media marketing, professional networking, and personal connections, visits to the NPcatalyst website have tripled in recent months. “What’s exciting is that our non-profit profile pages are seeing the greatest growth…and we put very little effort into marketing the pages”, according to Parker. The profile page of the first HealthCheck client, Sierra Nevada Journeys, has seen a 205% increase in views in the last month. “My hope, and the goal of this thing, is that Jonathan (SNJ’s executive director) tells me that they’re seeing an equally impressive spike in contributions.”

The HealthCheck tool is available to all non-profit organizations with an active 501(c)3 status. While the financial efficiencies of each may be screened due to public information found online, organizations seeking the full rating and tailored best practices guide will be charged a fee. “I wish we could offer HealthCheck at no cost, but we run a business to help strengthen our clients”, says Parker. “There’s a great deal we offer in benefits, plus we’re happy to work with businesses and foundations looking to underwrite the fees.”

For more information about NPcatalyst or its HealthCheck tool, log onto www.NPcatalyst.com, email info@NPcatalyst.com, or call 775-333-9444.

Areas to consider when considering funding, community collaborations

As a company, NPcatalyst strives to enhance the impact and visibility of philanthropy. We work with donors (primarily businesses) to create greater connections with their communities, where they contribute time and voluntary leadership. We introduce them to opportunities and community-benefit organizations (and their leaders), thus guiding them to successful community giving initiatives. We also work with community organizations to help create greater awareness, donor relations, development (fundraising) strategies, and recruit new donors and leaders. It’s an innovative approach to building community leadership, pride, and growth.

In daily conversations with donor and non-profit organizations, we frequently receive two questions. First, donors ask how and where the should contribute their money. At the same time, charities ask how they can raise more money from existing and new donors. The answers to both questions have commonalities, such understanding community needs and how donors and charities work together to meet them.

The strategies NPcatalyst creates for both donors and charities involve transparency and greater knowledge of funding and the organizations which receive them. It’s important, for many reasons, to have a keen understanding of how the organization is meeting community needs, how the organization is managing and performing, and precisely how the funds are allocated.

Providing this type of information to donors and, at the same time, leveraging it for greater public awareness, is why NPcatalyst created its HealthCheck system. Through an review of the Form 990 and answers from a 60-question survey, organizations receive a ratings analysis and a best practices tool in five areas. Beyond its ability to promote an organization’s strength and raise funds by ensuring their proper usage, it’s a great way to build upon the weak areas by implementing the recommended best practices. Here’s a close look at the five areas being analyzed.

Data & Efficiency

HealthCheck utilizes the IRS Forms 990 to analyze a non-profit organization’s financial performance in key performance categories. Upon analyzing performance categories, we assign a score as it relates to the organization’s efficiency, capacity, and overall financial health.

Finance & Fund Development

Non-profits have an obligation to act as responsible stewards in managing their financial resources. They must comply with all legal financial requirements and adhere to sound accounting principles that produce reliable financial information, ensure fiscal responsibility and build public trust. In addition, non-profits act as the intermediary between donors and beneficiaries and have an ethical obligation to ensure proper handling of funds to carry out their missions. Questions include:

  • The percentage of board members who make personal contributions.
  • The organization complies with all federal, state and local laws concerning fundraising practices.
  • The percentage of $250+ donors who received a written acknowledgement in the previous calendar year.

Governance

A non-profit’s leadership, represented by its staff and board of directors is responsible for defining the organization’s mission and for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to the organization. Each non-profit board should: ensure that the organization has adequate resources to carry out its mission and provide direction for the executive director and key staff; and evaluate its own effectiveness as a governing body and as representatives of the community in upholding the public interest served by the organization. Questions include:

  • The average percentage of board attendance at board meetings.
  • The organization pursues or is open to new strategic alliances (or collaborative partnerships) to achieve organizational goals.
  • The percentage of board members who have participated in an official board orientation process.

Human Resources

The ability of an organization to make effective use of the energy, time and talents of its employees and volunteers is essential to accomplish the organization’s mission.

Non-profit organizations should place a high priority on exercising fair and equitable practices that attract and retain qualified volunteers and employees. Nonprofits have an obligation to adhere to all applicable employment laws and to provide a safe and productive work environment. Questions include:

  • Employees receive formal performance evaluations.
  • The organization complies with all federal, state and local employment laws when hiring and employing personnel, including withholding and payment of payroll taxes.
  • The percentage of the organization’s employment positions which utilize a clear, current and written job description.

Public Information

Non-profits that provide information to prospective donors and other constituents promote informed and responsible philanthropy. Donors are better able to make decisions when they can learn a nonprofit’s purpose, who governs it, how it manages its financial resources, whom the nonprofit serves, and what progress it has made toward achieving its mission. Questions include:

  • The organization conducts a financial audit.
  • The organization conducts a constituent satisfaction survey.
  • The organization provides board meeting minutes and financials to those who request them.

The more satisfaction donors feel about the contributions they make to community-benefit organizations, the more likely the community’s needs will be met. At the same time, the charities which address those needs will be strengthened, so that others may engage as donors and volunteers. NPcatalyst’s HealthCheck is an outstanding resource  used when building collaborative partnerships between donors and charities.

For more information about philanthropy, collaborative partnerships, and charity research, contact NPcatalyst at http://www.npcatalyst.com/, info@npcatalyst.com or 775-333-9444.