Nonprofit 411: Tips for Designing or Re-Designing Your Non-Profit Website

By Ginger Kroll, Account Manager, Muse Intermedia

Ginger-KrollOver the years Muse Intermedia has designed, redesigned and maintained hundreds of websites. In the past year we’ve worked on a number of large scale non-profit website redesigns and in doing so, we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks from what we’ve learned throughout the varying processes.  Whether you’re starting from scratch or investing in a redesign, here is our list of things to consider when taking your non-profit into the digital age.

Be Accessible

It’s extremely important that your site be accessible. When researching potential agencies look for ones that start their design process at the mobile level and build from there. You’ll want to ensure that your non-profit site has the ability to quickly connect with millions of people and that means being mobile ready and at the tip of your visitor’s fingertips.

Content Content Content

Besides just engaging potential supporters online, content helps people find you when they search online. It’s essential that your company make itself a center of user-friendly content and that means utilizing social media and blog posts. Depending on your platform, encourage your readers to provide content for your site by leaving comments on your blog or Facebook page. Doing this can get a regular flow of content from your supporters and add a unique dynamic to your site.

Make it Visual

A picture is worth a thousand words – which makes the imagery you place on your website extremely important.  Make sure you have the images you need to fill the pages of your site and keep your visitors visually stimulated. It’s important that the images you select not only tell a story, but are brand relevant and high quality (i.e. large, high resolution images always work best.) And as we mentioned above, make sure the images you select will work on all devices – accessibility is key!

Don’t forget the important stuff

What financially drives your non-profit? Whether it’s fundraisers, annual galas, or festivals, highlighting your non-profit’s events plays a crucial part in the design of your site. It’s important that your organization make an inventory of what you currently use and what you would like to use, so that your design team can make sure they select the right tools for your site. Ask your design team for examples of custom event pages, calendars and blogposts they’ve used to highlight their client’s events. Make sure to discuss specific needs with your design team so that they can decide on how best to approach your site.

The Most Important Lesson of All

Find a design team that supports you and your organization’s mission. Make sure they spend time getting to know you so that they can understand who you are and what tools you need to be successful. Searching for the right agency can be daunting – make sure you find one that communicates clearly and the result will be fewer surprises and a beautiful, functional, website.

Senate Proposed Employer Assessment, A Step Forward:

Yesterday, the Senate Ways & Means Committee released its FY18 budget proposal. Included in this proposal was authorization for the administration to pursue either the employer health care assessment or an increase in the existing employer medical assistance contribution (EMAC), a fund to subsidize health care to low-income residents of the Commonwealth.

The proposal put forward by the Senate Ways & Means Committee is a positive step forward and will allow continued opportunities for dialogue on this important issue. MNN has been meeting with leaders in the administration and legislature on this complicated issue and will continue to remain engaged as conversations around these two proposals go forward.

As for the two options included in the Senate Ways & Means budget, the administration would have until August 1st to choose between the employer assessment or an increase to EMAC. If the administration went with the employer assessment, it would apply to employers with 25 or more employees that don’t offer adequate health plans and the administration would have the option to exclude certain classes of employers including nonprofits. The administration would need to consider many factors before setting the amount of the assessment including: (1) the number of employees; (2) whether employees are part-time or full-time; (3) whether employees have access to health insurance through a parent, spouse, veteran’s or Medicare; and (4) how much the employer contributes towards the employer-sponsored health care plan. If the administration instead went with the EMAC proposal, it could raise the current $51 per employee EMAC, an existing assessment that applies to employers with six or more employees.

Similar to the final House budget, the Senate proposal lowered the revenue target of the assessment ($180 million as opposed to the $300 million proposed by the administration). The Senate proposal also delays implementation to January 2018 and includes language sunsetting either proposal two years after the effective date.

Nonprofit 411: Tips for Lobbying your Legislators

By Stefanie Coxe, Principal, Nexus Werx LLC

Most non-profit leaders I train to lobby feel overwhelmed at the prospect of asking their lawmakers to secure a budget earmark or to advocate for legislation that would benefit their organization. There’s a lot of relationship-building and other work to do ahead of meeting with them, but if you’re already well-known to your state representative and state senator, this is the Anatomy of the Ask:

First, do your homework. Is your representative the lead sponsor of the line-item you’re pushing? Is she on the record in the newspaper opposing the bill you’re meeting on? Make sure you’re not sabotaging yourself by unexpectedly meeting with the opposition or embarrassing yourself by asking her to support something she’s a well-known champion of.

Next, get on their schedule. During the budget and other busy times, State Legislators will generally be in “the building” (the State House) Tues-Thursday and in-district Monday and Friday. Call to confirm the meeting and, for pity’s sake, if you’re running late, call and let them know. (They, on the other hand have de facto permission to be as late as they want.) Don’t be afraid to meet with an aide if they cancel last minute (it happens all the time). They can be your biggest advocates!

Have your swag ready to go. In politics, we call this a “one pager.” And I do mean one. Politicians and their aides get mountains of requests and usually don’t have the time or manpower to read through long reports. Trust me, if they want more, they’ll ask for it. Things to include:

  • Program name, line-item/bill number
  • If you’re asking them to co-sponsor something, don’t forget to name the lead sponsor (and their aide, and the amendment number)! And while you’re at it, include your name and contact info!
  • Bill/funding history of your ask
  • Information about who and how many people who will be impacted (preferably people in their district), how it will work, and a little more meat on the bones. Still one page front and back, though.

Perfect your elevator speech. If your legislator doesn’t understand what you want in less than five minutes, chances are your request isn’t going far. Keep it high level. Tell them what the program/bill is, what problem it’s fixing (or what gain it’s creating), why it’s important to his/her district, and if it’s funding, how it will be sustained. After you’ve done that you can engage in a back and forth discussing the granular details.

Finally, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. A week or two after your meeting, make a pleasant call to their aide asking if their boss has had a chance to consider your request or take action they promised in the meeting.

If they agree to help, thank them. Thank their aide. Thank them publicly, if possible. Thank them, because it’s a thankless job and everyone appreciates being valued.

For more information, visit: http://www.nexuswerx.com/learn-to-lobby.html

Nonprofit 411: Non-Profit Employee Classification Checklist

By Paul Holtzman, Partner, Krokidas & Bluestein

As a non-profit organization, there are many considerations to account for in the way you supervise, retain, PaulHoltzmanand compensate your workforce. From classification of employment status to compensation practices, mismanagement of personnel can be damaging for any organization and the risk is only exacerbated for nonprofits. Below are a few tips to help you navigate the murky waters between volunteers, interns and independent contractors, so that you can ensure that you are adhering to applicable laws and classifying personnel in an accurate and legal way.

They may be a volunteer if…

  • The worker does not receive or expect to receive benefits from their work
  • The activity constitutes less than a full-time occupation
  • Regular employees are not displaced by the volunteer
  • The individual is acting without having been pressured or coerced
  • The services are not the same type as those performed by employees of the organization

They may be an intern if…

  • Their activity is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment
  • The experience is for their benefit
  • The individual does not displace regular employees
  • There is no immediate advantage derived by your organization from the intern’s activities
  • There is a mutual understanding that the intern is not entitled to wages for their time spent; and that they are not necessarily entitled to a job

They may be an independent contractor if…

  • The individual is free from control and direction of the organization, both by design and in fact
  • The service they provide is performed outside the usual course of business of your organization
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in their work for your organization

Nonprofit 411: Size and Success: The Case for Capacity for NPOs

By Kim McCormick, Senior Vice President, McCormick Group

The spectrum of nonprofit organizations (NPO) in the United States ranges from $3+ billion to $250 in annual revenue. The DSC_0303pi-04Ms (1)huge disparity paired with the sheer number (1.5 million) of registered NPOs begs the question, does size matter?

SIZE

Interestingly, there are two conflicting concepts regarding size. Larger organizations have greater resources to make changes, acquire technologies and train staff, however it’s more difficult to shift system wide. Smaller organizations may shift models easily, yet lack capacity and financial resources to make impactful change. Knowing the sweet spot for your organization’s size can help you deliver your mission more effectively. Unfortunately, many NPOs are busy raising money and managing daily operations. Building capacity for greater impact is the stuff of dreams.

Capacity can be measured by in many ways; stating efficacy in relationship to size is but one. NPOs at an effective capacity level raise more money in relationship to their size than smaller organizations. Comparing average gross revenue to size, research shows that the minimum financial capacity for organizational effectiveness is between $1-5M with $10M being the beginning of the sweet spot for strategic growth.

NPOs raising less than $1-3M simply don’t have the capacity to deliver the brand, attract and train quality employees, implement major programs, deeply invest in technology or significantly impact mission. If that is the case, then how can we build capacity? There are several ways, including:

• Raise more money

• Cut staff, programs and services

• Seek collaborative agreements to broaden the footprint, gain economies of scale and reach more constituents

The focus of a collaboration solution to capacity starts with mission, not money, and is centered on ‘what we can do better together.’

SUCCESS

The first step to measuring success requires looking beyond the dashboard to multi-year trends. If a drop is noticeable or the organization is losing impact, volunteers and influence, the reason can usually be traced to capacity. Whether it’s lack of consistent funding, staff, volunteers, lack of “pick your point” there are missing elements that if present would result in positive trends. Additional factors including increased competition, the complexity of managing donors, policy shifts and environmental influences can inhibit success year after year.

Consider the impact of scale. The difference between a $1M versus a $10M organization spending 10% on branding is significant such that to achieve the desired results, the larger organization may only need to spend 7% on branding and have more funds available (in this example $300,000) to invest in strategic objectives. As scale increases, capacities increase simply because of size. There is direct evidence of entities lacking consistent financial capacity and not achieving goals due to weak brand recognition.

Donors relate to an organization on brand, but judge effectiveness on programmatic, fundraising and administration costs compared to monies raised. The larger an organization’s revenues in relationship to their expenses, the more appealing these ratios are to constituents.

Finding success through building capacity can be likened to realizing that you need something, like vegetables to sell at your market. You can either buy land, equipment and seeds, plant and tend hoping your investment pays off; or you can visit a vegetable farmer, get to know her, share resources, create a partnership and start offering high quality vegetables to your constituents quickly and inexpensively. Dream big!

Nonprofit 411: Goodbye Obamacare & Hello Trumpcare? Not so fast…

By Colleen Doherty, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, SVP, Compliance & Client Service, Eastern InsuranceColleen Doherty

From the day that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare, The Affordable Care Act, or the ACA) was signed into law back in 2010, its opponents have been vowing to repeal it. During the Obama administration, repeal was a moot point given that President Obama could veto any bill that attempted to dismantle his signature legislation. Under the new Trump administration, the repeal of the ACA is a primary objective of the new president as well as the Republican majority House and Senate.  However, a full repeal of the law is highly unlikely given that Senate Democrats will most likely block any attempt to fully repeal the law.

What is an ACA opponent to do?
[Read more…]

Nonprofit, Community, and Business Leaders Celebrate Local Unsung Heroes at Third Annual Light of Dawnn Awards Ceremony

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Nonprofit, Community, and Business Leaders Celebrate Local Unsung Heroes at Third Annual Light of Dawnn Awards Ceremony

Nonprofit Workers and High School Students Honored for Their Remarkable Contributions to Their Communities

BOSTON, MA (February 28, 2017) – Nonprofit, community, and business leaders, along with the Jaffier Family, came together at the West End House Boys and Girls Club for the third annual Light of Dawnn Awards Ceremony to honor the life of Dawnn Jaffier. During the ceremony, three nonprofit workers and three high school seniors were recognized for their outstanding work and commitment to serving their communities. Also in attendance were elected officials including State Representative Kevin Honan and City Councilor Mark Ciommo.

“There is no better way to honor the life of Dawnn Jaffier than to celebrate those who have continued to carry on her legacy through acts of goodwill and service to our local communities,” said Mayor Walsh. “I congratulate Juan, Dawnmarie and Tha for being the recipients of this year’s Light of Dawnn Award, a distinguished recognition honoring those who have gone above and beyond to lend a helping hand to others, and who continue to make the City of Boston proud.”  

The Light of Dawnn Awards were created three years ago to honor the memory of Dawnn Jaffier, who in 2014 was tragically killed at just 26 years old. While just a young woman, Dawnn had already made a significant impact in her community through her work with the West End House Boys and Girls Club, Playworks, City Year, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. Upon Dawnn’s untimely passing, her family, friends, and colleagues came together to create the Light of Dawnn Awards so that her legacy may continue to inspire. Each year, three individuals who represent Dawnn’s spirit are selected to receive a Light of Dawnn Award and a $5,000 prize. The Awards are presented by the Highland Street Foundation and managed by the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network.

This year’s recipients are Dawnmarie Salmons, Music Clubhouse Director of Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston: Edgerley Family South Boston Club; Juan Manuel Cantú, Jr., College Success Coordinator at Hyde Square Task Force; and Tha Thai, Boston Team Crisis Coordinator at Roca, Inc.

“Juan, Dawnmarie, and Tha quietly go about their work every day, not in pursuit of recognition, but purely driven by a desire to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Blake Jordan, Executive Director of the Highland Street Foundation.  “It is an honor to shine a light on them and a privilege to do so in the name of Dawnn Jaffier.”

“We are honored to be here today with Dawnn’s friends and family, community partners, and Mayor Walsh to remember Dawnn and further her positive spirit and legacy by honoring this year’s outstanding Light of Dawnn Awards recipients,” said David Shapiro, Chairman of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s Board. “The heart, talent and dedication that Dawnmarie, Juan, and Tha bring to their work day in and day out reminds us of Dawnn’s unique ability to build relationships, community, and to simply be there for so many all in the name of strengthening support, opportunity, and connection.”

Also during the ceremony, three high school seniors were awarded the Light of Dawnn Scholarships for their community work. Now in their second year, these scholarships were created by John Hancock, where Dawnn’s mother is a longtime employee, in partnership with The Foundation To Be Named Later. The scholarships award $5,000 to each student to go towards pursuing a college education.

This year’s scholarship recipients are Justina Riopelle, Sominisha Wright, and Noor Al-saad.

“We thank the Jaffier family, and our community partners, for giving us the opportunity to help honor Dawnn’s extraordinary life and legacy,” said Tom Crohan, AVP & Counsel, Corporate Responsibility and Government Relations at John Hancock. “We honor her best by drawing strength from her inspiring example, and we are proud to recognize Justina, Sominisha and Noor for their commitment to serving others and giving back to their communities.”

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Nonprofit 411: Benchmarking: Satisfy your Board and Gain a Competitive Advantage

By Tyler Butler, BerryDunn

Benchmarking doesn’t need to be time and resource consuming. Read on for four simple steps you can take to improve efficiency and maximize resources. [Read more…]

MNN’s Statement on Federal Travel Restrictions

February 1, 2017

Last Friday’s order imposing federal travel restrictions continues to generate widespread concern and outrage, including among the nonprofit community. At MNN, we are closely following the policy and legal debates as they unfold. MNN members with concerns or questions about the travel restrictions, or other federal issues, should contact Tonja Mettlach at tmettlach@massnonprofitnet.org.

The skills, ideas, contributions, and commitment that immigrants bring to Massachusetts strengthen our Commonwealth each day. MNN is committed to supporting immigration, diversity, and the values upon which our sector was built.

Massachusetts Nonprofit Network Appoints Robert Gittens to Board of Directors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 26, 2017

Massachusetts Nonprofit Network Appoints Robert Gittens to Board of Directors

(BOSTON, Mass) The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN), the statewide association that strengthens the nonprofit sector through advocacy, public awareness, and capacity-building, is pleased to announce that it has appointed Robert Gittens, Executive Director of Cambridge Family and Children’s Service, to its Board of Directors.

“On behalf of MNN’s Board of Directors, I want to extend a big welcome to Bob Gittens,” said David Shapiro, Chairman of MNN’s Board. “Bob brings with him a wealth of experience in both the public and nonprofit sectors, and we look forward to benefitting from his volunteer leadership as we work to elevate and advocate for the central role of nonprofits in making the Commonwealth a great place to live.”

“We are very excited to welcome Bob to MNN’s Board of Directors,” said Jim Klocke, CEO of MNN. “Bob has been an important leader in the community for many years. His vast experience in public affairs and advocacy will be invaluable as we work to strengthen the nonprofit sector.”

“I am thrilled to be joining the board of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network,” said Bob. “I am very much looking forward to working with a great group of leaders to support and promote the Commonwealth’s vibrant nonprofit sector.”

Bob has been the Executive Director at Cambridge Family and Children Services since 2016. Prior to his current role, he served as the Vice President of Public Affairs at Northeastern University for 13 years. He served as cabinet secretary of the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services from 2001-2003 and was commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services from 1997-2001. He was First Assistant District Attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office from 1992-1997 and Chairman of the Massachusetts Parole Board from 1990-92.

Bob holds a J.D. degree from Northeastern University School of Law and a B.A. in Political Science from Northeastern. He has been a leader in the community as Chairman of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and member of the Governor’s Youth Violence Task Force. Bob has served as a board member of numerous organizations including Judge Baker Children’s Center, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and Goodwill Industries.

You can view a full list of MNN’s Board here.

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About the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network

The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) is the voice of the nonprofit sector, bringing together all parts of the nonprofit ecosystem – organizations, funders, community and business leaders, and elected and appointed officials – to strengthen nonprofits and raise the sector’s voice on critical issues. MNN understands that strong nonprofits build strong communities. It is MNN’s mission to strengthen the nonprofit community through advocacy, public awareness, and capacity building.  MNN has more than 650 nonprofit members made up of organizations from eight subsectors and located in every part of Massachusetts, from the Berkshires to the Cape and Islands. For more information about the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, visit www.massnonprofitnet.org.