Nonprofit 411: State-Sponsored 401k Plan for Massachusetts Nonprofits

Expanding Benefits as an Employee Retention Tool Just Got Easier

by State Treasurer Deborah B. GoldbergTreasurer Deborah B. Goldberg

One of every organization’s most valuable assets are the people who work there.  With more rapid changes brought about by the increased use of technology, and improvements in the national and local economies that translate into more competitive job markets, keeping your most talented employees has never been more challenging. Even within the nonprofit sector, it is critical to offer employees compelling benefits to remain and work for the causes they care about. This environment means your organization should do more, and we have a tool that can help.

The Massachusetts CORE Plan (CORE Plan) is a state-sponsored 401(k) retirement plan designed especially for small Massachusetts nonprofit organizations.  As CORE Plan Sponsor, the Office of The State Treasurer assumes a number of administrative and investment responsibilities on behalf of participating employers and their participating employees.  The CORE Plan is a Multiple Employer Plan, which allows us to combine Plan assets between your organization and other organizations across the state, bringing down the costs of offering a full-featured 401(k). The CORE Plan leverages the expertise and best practices used today in many large retirement plans while striving to keep costs low for employers and employees. Nonprofit organizations based and chartered in Massachusetts and employing 20 or fewer staff may adopt the CORE Plan.

Your employees likely know how important it is to save for retirement, but opening an IRA and remembering to contribute, or making sure enough is being contributed, is not always as easy as it should be. The CORE Plan is designed to make it simple and straightforward to participate and see real savings add up.

Some of the key features of the CORE Plan include:

  • All of the employee benefit protections under ERISA.
  • Automatic enrollment, combined with auto-escalation of employee contributions, makes it easy for CORE Plan participants to start saving early and grow savings rates quickly.
  • Higher contribution limits versus an IRA and the potential for employer-matching contributions.
  • The investment structure of the CORE Plan is developed and monitored by an independent investment consultant acting as a fiduciary under ERISA.
  • Knowledgeable CORE Plan representatives available to explain Plan benefits to your employees.
  • Easy-to-read fee disclosures ensure that participants are aware of fees. There are no deferred sales charges or contractual obligations for CORE Plan participants.
  • A robust participant website experience includes individual retirement income projections based on each participant’s age, contribution rate, account balance, and investment allocation:

For additional information regarding the CORE Plan employers may visit us at or contact us at 877-630-4015. Find out how you can join us in adding value to your employee benefits.

PS: If you are an employee at a small Massachusetts nonprofit and think your organization could benefit from adding the CORE Plan, please share this information with your executive staff or human resources department.

Nonprofit 411: Driving Diverse, Desired Target-Audience Actions with Online Advertising

306ae18By Gail Snow Moraski, Principal and Digital Marketer, Results Communications and Research

Anyone who’s held a discussion with me about marketing and development activities knows I’m a huge fan of online advertising. Because search engine networks, such as Google AdWords, and social media platforms, such as Facebook, allow advertisers to execute campaigns where they only pay when a target-audience member clicks on a “pay-per-click” ad, advertising on the aforementioned networks/platforms can be quite cost-effective, particularly since you still get valuable, awareness-generating “impressions” for free!

Because many nonprofit organizations aren’t looking to receive compensation for their services, individuals charged with marketing and development activities may assume online advertising doesn’t make sense for them. It’s very reasonable to think that our “featured” marketing vehicle only makes sense for for-profit businesses looking to generate product and service sales. With the ideas shared below, I hope to shake up those preconceived notions and shed light on why I believe there is a role for online advertising in a nonprofit’s marketing and development toolbox.

Fundraising Application

As I’ve shared with nonprofit contacts, while the individuals who comprise their target audience may not be directly searching for the contact’s upcoming fundraising event(s), those individuals may still be searching on terms that have some relevancy to the  fundraising activity. For example, let’s say an organization holds an annual holiday high tea to support development goals. The organization would likely benefit from running search engine (“paid search”) ads targeted to women, aged 25+ and residing in relevant geographies, who are entering terms in a search engine which indicate they are trying to identify local, charitable, holiday events to attend with their girlfriends, sisters, moms, etc.

In addition to running paid search advertising to create event awareness and ticket sales among “searchers”, the organization should consider running display/image ads on a variety of social media platforms and/or search engine “display” networks, like Google AdWords Display. In lieu of presenting ads to individuals based on their “search” behavior, social media and display networks offer the option to have ads presented to individuals who have certain interests, read about certain topics, or who visit certain Web sites (“placements”).

The type of targeting selected to promote an event may be very closely or very loosely tied to its nature. For example, if an organization is selling tickets to a cooking class “fundraiser”, it would make great sense to target individuals who have an interest in or read articles about cooking, or who visit cooking Web sites. But, in the case of our high-tea fundraiser, there may not be an obvious “interest” or “topic” target to pursue, and targeting may simply consist of having ads presented to women who meet an organization’s geography requirements and who visit Web sites known to have large female readerships.

The above scenario should apply as well to causing individuals to make donations. Presenting ads to audiences whose demographics and interests make them good donation targets should serve to create awareness or reminders of your organization, and therefore, support donation-making.

Driving Non-Monetary Actions

Online advertising can also be used to cause target audiences to take important non-monetary actions. For example, display/image ads presented to appropriate individuals can cause a note-worthy percentage to click to “sign up for a weekly e-blast,” “learn more about volunteering” or “complete our survey to help us serve our constituents better.”

When putting together your marketing and communications plan for a campaign – whether its purpose be to grow funds, volunteers, e-communication sign-ups, or awareness – be sure to give ample thought to what campaign objectives might be achieved if you included online advertising as a tactic, and the opportunities that might be lost if you forego this cost-effective tactic.

Nonprofit 411: Workplace Conflict – Is It Always Just About the People?

by Janet Grogan, The Mediation GroupJanet Grogan

The times we live in seem to be exacerbating tensions in the workplace. Hostilities seem to be more overt; they are certainly often more public. Diagnosing the real nature of a conflict when it arises and ensuring that the right intervention is applied is crucial to preventing a continuing burn that could explode in the future. But this is easier said than done for a number of reasons:

  • The web of laws and regulations that govern many workplace processes can be difficult to untangle and apply to any given situation. They overlap, sometimes contradict, and often confuse.
  • Our nonprofit cultures are complex. We are proudly mission-driven, motivated by what ought to be but frustrated by what is.  We often make assumptions about shared values and feel betrayed when we learn that sometimes they are not.
  • We have limited resources and less latitude to use resources to help with things that are not direct program delivery.
  • Making any kind of change is hard. It is hard for us as individual human beings to alter behaviors and beliefs acquired over time.  It is just as hard for an organization to make changes in the way it operates.

Because finding the right solution is hard, what often happens when tensions or conflicts arise is that either it is ignored in the hope that it will resolve and go away, or, the solution applied is based on the symptoms presented rather than the underlying issue.

For example, Brian, a supervisor at a community-based organization, is upset with his employee, Mayra.  He had given her a directive NOT to do X, and she did it anyway. From his perspective, she has been blatantly insubordinate, and he issues a formal written warning. An upset Mayra files a complaint about Brian. Issuing a warning is not an illogical response to an act of insubordination – but, what was that “insubordination” about?

In an in-house meeting, a neutral probed Mayra’s understanding of the directive and her thought process that led her to do X. It turned out that, while Mayra’s thought process was different from Brian’s, it was not without its own merit, and resulted, in part from Brian’s way of communicating his directive, as well as from some confusion and overlap in their respective authority and mandate to carry out certain aspects of their department’s job. Brian realized that Mayra didn’t simply “defy” him, Mayra realized that she needed to ask more questions, and they both realized that they needed to do some work to clarify roles and responsibilities.

The organization learned a few crucial lessons about handling workplace conflict:

  • It’s not always “just” interpersonal. There are almost always ways in which the organization’s history, structure, systems and culture contribute (as in the lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities in the example).
  • Good listeners and problem solvers need to take the time to delve thoroughly into the issue, to listen to everyone involved and understand their perspectives, and to analyze the organizational contribution.
  • Once solutions are proposed, they need to be monitored to see how and if they are working – and adjusted as needed.
  • Solutions need to match the organization’s resources. If a manager would benefit from professional coaching, but the organization can’t afford it, other options must be developed to help that manager.

And, of course, there are times when a conflict really may be just about the people and should be dealt with as such. Just be sure to look beneath the surface before you decide!


Janet Grogan is a senior consultant with The Mediation Group. Previously the head of HR for the Massachusetts Port Authority, Janet has developed HR policy, conducted training, facilitated and implemented strategic planning and has a track record of mediating disputes and creating effective solutions for internal resolution. Contact her at

Nonprofit 411: To Build Your Fundraising Capacity, Start With a Plan

by Betsy Gonzalez, Harbor Compliance

A national study of fundraising challenges found Gonzalez head shotthat 23 percent of nonprofits, and 31 percent of nonprofits with operating budgets under $1 million, had no fundraising plan in place. Yet only 7 percent of high-performing nonprofits were without a plan.[1]

Creating a comprehensive road map for your fundraising efforts clearly pays off. And since 41 states require nonprofits to register before fundraising, and 25 states require special disclosure statements, it’s important to include state fundraising requirements in your plans. Unfortunately, the requirements are not always well understood. As Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits, recently noted, “Charitable solicitation laws vary widely from state to state and compliance can be confusing, costly, and time-consuming.”

The National Council of Nonprofits and Harbor Compliance created a Best Practices Partnership and published a white paper to help nonprofits understand charitable solicitation requirements. Mike Montali, CEO of Harbor Compliance, said, “The new guide and ongoing relationship with the Council of Nonprofits will make sure nonprofits nationwide have access to information that will help them advance their missions.” The white paper can be found here.

As a quick overview, let’s cover a few of the highlights.

The first step is to determine where you’re soliciting and what the requirements are in those states.

Soliciting = Asking for Donations

Soliciting means, simply, asking for donations, including traditional appeals such as mailings, fundraising events, phone solicitations, and advertising. But it also includes some activities you may not expect, such as personal requests by board members and grant applications. If you send a letter to a list of donors in ten states, you are soliciting in those states, and you may be subject to their registration requirements. In some states, the requirements only kick in after a certain dollar threshold. In others, it only counts if you actually receive donations from residents there. It is best to assume that you’re fundraising wherever your messages are reaching, and research the requirements in all of those states.

Digital Fundraising

So what does that mean in the age of digital fundraising? “Something as simple as having a ‘donate now’ link on your nonprofit’s e-newsletters that go beyond your state’s borders may equate to ‘fundraising solicitation’ that triggers a registration obligation in some states,” Tim said. Basically, if you’re fundraising on social media, through email, or through your website, you may need to meet registration requirements in all states where they apply.

To build their fundraising programs to full capacity, many nonprofits simply register nationally. Others hold back, assuming that nationwide registration must involve a lot of time and expense. In fact, state fees are small, particularly compared to the potential upside of fundraising nationally, and a compliance partner can eliminate the administrative burden. The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that nationwide registration is out of reach. Consult an expert and get hard numbers before making a decision.

Access the Complete Guide

This is just a quick overview of state charitable solicitation requirements and how they might factor into a comprehensive fundraising plan. To help nonprofits understand the requirements and maintain good standing, the National Council of Nonprofits teamed up with Harbor Compliance to publish Charitable Solicitation Compliance: an Explanation of State Charitable Registration Requirements. The guide provides valuable information you can use to design a fundraising plan that will take your nonprofit to new levels of performance.

If you have questions about fundraising compliance, get in touch and we’ll be happy to answer them.


About the author

Betsy Gonzalez is a copywriter and editor for Harbor Compliance, a leading provider of compliance solutions for nonprofits and businesses at all phases of development. Since 2012, we have helped more than 10,000 organizations apply for, secure, and maintain licensing and registration across all industries including other considerations such as appointing a registered agent, obtaining a certificate of authority, annual reporting, and renewals.

[1] Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Nonprofit 411: How One Nonprofit Revolutionized Its Employee Healthcare


By Nonstop Wellness

Patrick Callihan, executive director of Tech Impact, has made significant changes to his employees’ health insurance in an effort to reduce costs and improve benefits. Taking cues from the self-funding world, Tech Impact now uses a partially self-funded insurance approach that has stabilized premium costs and eliminated out-of-pocket expenses for his staff of 55.  Nonstop Wellness caught up with him to learn more.

Q: Why did Tech Impact begin moving away from the traditional insurance model?

A: For many years, my previous broker would come to me with double-digit increases and I would ask “what can we do creatively to avoid taking this hit?” So I began self-insuring pieces of our healthcare plan. It reduced the premium increase, but it also meant that as an organization we were taking on more risk. Because of our size I didn’t think we were in a position to self-fund entirely, so that model was not an option for us.

Q: What drew you specifically to the Nonstop Wellness model of partial self-insurance?

A: Moving to Nonstop Wellness meant our healthcare premiums remained stable, we could slow down healthcare inflation year over year, and we could provide better benefits to our employees with a $0 out-of-pocket insurance program. It’s a win-win for both Tech Impact and our staff, in that we experienced organizational cost-savings and our employees no longer pay copays, deductibles or coinsurance costs.

Beyond that, I was just really blown away by Nonstop’s financial model and how Nonstop Wellness is engineered. Nonstop has created a predictable algorithm that compares cost and actual usage of the plan. It’s an awesome business model that allows nonprofits to access the upside of self-insurance with none of the downside.

Q: How has moving to a partial self-insured approach supported Tech Impact’s business model?

A: We are growing quickly, so this has been a great recruitment tool. When I describe our healthcare plan to prospective employees, I often get a jaw drop. We pay 90 percent of premiums, so that, coupled with $0 out-of-pocket costs, means that employee wages stay stable each month. That is a huge win. For many people, this can be the difference between staying in the black or going into debt. There are no “gotchas” with Nonstop Wellness like there can be with other plans. It speaks to quality of life, something that is important to both me and my associates.

Q: What advice would you give to other nonprofits that are seeking an alternative to traditional health insurance?

A: My first reaction to Nonstop Wellness was that the model was too good to be true. But when you dig into the research and vetting process, the financials and logistics are quite sound. In addition, I really feel that Nonstop is our advocate when it comes to employee healthcare. It gives me a lot of confidence and comfort. Healthcare is a big line item for us, so having someone in our corner makes a difference. I’d encourage all nonprofit leadership to dedicate the time and resources needed to explore alternatives to the traditional fully insured model. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Tech Impact’s mission is to empower communities and nonprofits to use technology to better serve our world by providing telecom, cloud migrations, data services, and managed IT services to nonprofits/NGO’s on a national and international scale. Tech Impact also offers workforce development programs for underrepresented communities in Philadelphia, PA, Wilmington, DE, and Las Vegas, NV. To learn more please visit

Nonprofit 411: How to Find Money in the Cloud

By Ryan Ecclestone, Director of IT Consulting, Insource Services, Inc.Ryan Ecclestone

Nonprofit organizations are faced with the challenge of managing their costs and spending and implementing technology to leverage their resources and support achievement of their mission. As every dollar counts, many nonprofits utilize Cloud solutions because they are often the most cost-effective and sustainable technology solution.

Two of the most popular cloud vendors, Microsoft Azure Cloud (Azure) and Amazon Web Services Cloud (AWS), offer secure Cloud services that provide computing power, backups and disaster recovery services, database storage, content delivery, and other functionality without requiring organizations to invest in physical infrastructure. Both offer thousands of dollars in discounts to nonprofits.

What Nonprofit Discounts Are Available?


As part of their $1 Billion “Public Cloud for the Public Good” commitment, Microsoft offers a program specifically geared towards qualified nonprofit organizations.

Azure Credit Program for Nonprofits:

  • Offers $5,000 in credits annually which can be applied towards the complete portfolio of Azure services.
    • The primary approach to receiving discounts on Azure is through your Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA). Any EA customer can add Azure to their EA with an upfront financial commitment to Azure. That commitment is consumed throughout the year by using any combination of cloud services.

Here’s how an Insource client took advantage of the discounts offered for Azure:

Client Y was already using Cloud products for their email and file sharing needs, but still had an onsite server for user and computer management. Using the Azure credit, Insource built a cloud server to manage these roles, thereby reducing our client’s need for premise equipment and complicated backup procedures.


In 2016, AWS partnered with TechSoup Global to provide AWS credits to nonprofits. Through the AWS Credit Program, nonprofits can select packaged AWS Cloud services.

AWS Credit Program for Nonprofits:

  • Makes a grant of $2,000 annually in credits to eligible 501(c)(3) organizations
    • Sign-up through TechSoup ($175 admin fee each year)
    • Apply these service credits toward usage fees for AWS on-demand Cloud services and certain AWS support fees.

In addition to the AWS Credits Program for Nonprofits, AWS offers the AWS Free Tier for all new customers for 12 months following the organization’s sign-up date. The AWS Free Tier is a separate offer from the AWS Credits Program and allows new customers to use certain AWS services for free up to certain usage limits. The AWS Free Tier is available for one AWS account only per organization.

Let’s look at an instance of leveraging the AWS discount:

Client X was experiencing frustration with its current web host due to increasing costs, outages and lack of support. Using the AWS credit, Insource consultants set up a Cloud server for hosting Client X’s web application. The benefits of this change included: significant cost savings, more control over the website environment, and a reduction in reported issues.

How to Make These Discounts Work for You?

Cloud solutions are an attractive option for nonprofits – they offer flexibility, savings on infrastructure costs, and improved methods for collaboration. Comparing pricing among the major Cloud vendors, like AWS and Azure, is a complex process and the array of offerings and discounts can be overwhelming. Insource IT experts can guide you through understanding and choosing the right Cloud-based system(s) to meet your needs, while ensuring that all applicable discounts are utilized, whichever platform you select.



Nonprofit 411: Is Your Nonprofit Ready for the Unexpected?

By Barbara Andrews, CPA, Senior Audit Manager, KPM & Associatesbarbara-andrews2

The executive director of a nonprofit organization recently informed me that the agency’s landlord is selling the building that houses their operating facility. The lease ends in a year and there is now an organized scramble to find a new location. This recent chain of events has moved the organization into a ‘reactive’ mode which is disruptive to their regular operations. There are many types of unforeseen events that can happen to an organization, however there are steps organizations can take to prepare for the unexpected.

Does your organization have a healthy operating reserve?
An operating reserve allows for flexibility and strengthens an organization’s ability to adapt to changes.  The Nonprofit Operative Reserves Toolkit developed by the Nonprofit Operating Reserves Initiative Workgroup (NORI) is a valuable resource available to organizations.  NORI recommends that organizations establish a minimum operating reserve ratio policy.  The ratio can be calculated in terms of a percentage (operating reserves divided by the annual expense budget) or number of months (operating reserves divided by the average monthly expense budget).  The minimum operating reserve ratio at the lowest point of the year should be 25%, or 3 months, of the annual expense budget.

Does the Organization’s Board of Directors have the right mix of professional experience?
There is no magic formula but the more active and vibrant Boards that I have encountered consist of members with complementary skillsets.  Is the organization looking forward or is it operating with a day-to-day mindset? The organization that is looking forward will be better equipped to respond to changing environments. The latter will likely be stagnant or fall into ‘crisis mode’ when challenges arise.

Are you using your network?
Do the organization’s leaders and Board have a pulse on the industry?  Organizations that engage with leaders within their industry are more informed.  This can be accomplished through direct interaction or indirectly through such means as social media.

Is the Organization’s financial information reliable and timely?
One tool to help gauge the reliability of financial information provided to the Board is the organization’s annual operating budget to actual comparison reporting.  This simple tool evaluates if management understands both the organization’s perceived and actual operations. An unreliable budget is of no value.  The organization should also incorporate pro-forma data, such as future cash flows, in the financial reporting package provided to the Board.  This forward thinking will assist the organization and its Board in making informed decisions.

Does your Organization have a strategic plan?
The National Council of Nonprofits has made available tools and resources to be used by an organization when developing its strategic plan.  The Council states “that many nonprofits start the process by identifying the nonprofit’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, in what is commonly called a “SWOT” analysis.  Looking at external as well as internal factors (such as your own nonprofit’s staff capacity to accomplish its goals) is important.”

No matter the tools utilized, the organization should share the information and results with the entire organization.  When employees are aware of the organization’s goals and how they align with the mission, it empowers them to learn from setbacks and to share and celebrate the organization’s accomplishments.   The organization, as a whole, will be better equipped to respond to the unexpected.




Nonprofit 411: Tips for Investing in Technology and Moving to a Proactive IT Strategy

By Debbie Crooke, Senior Consultant, and Carmen Mincy, Sales and Marketing Associate, Ninestone Corporationninestone_0002_software-industry-implementation-expertninestone_0009_information-technology-industry-expertise

Many nonprofit leadership teams struggle with how to balance technology investments with other organizational priorities and financial constraints. Too often, IT is not involved when initiative prioritization and funding decisions are made.  Given this environment, it’s tempting to engage in a reactive IT approach, where everything is handled on an as needed basis as budget exceptions.  However, nonprofit organizations can make the move to a proactive IT strategy by following these recommendations.

Manage Existing Technology

Define a role in your organization for someone to oversee technology. Rather than be taken by surprise at growing inefficiencies, become proactive and organized when it comes to vendor contracts and the periodic upgrades that can be made to existing technology. This approach allows for IT issues to be centralized and will assist in how to prioritize upgrades and establish effective maintenance activities.

Have a Strategy

Investing in technology is complex, and may have implications for varied aspects of your organization. When considering an investment,

  • Define the goals of the investment, including identifying whether it’s a reactive or proactive decision,
  • Prioritize the implementation of the new or updated technology along with the rest of planned initiatives, and
  • Execute a plan to communicate with and train staff and volunteers related to the new technology.

Once you have decided to invest in a technology solution, you should consider a tiered rollout to different parts of your organization and give ample time for smooth adoption. Defining tiers of needs helps to allocate a limited budget effectively and should provide for a smoother transition to the new solution.

Select the Right Software Solutions

There are many software solutions for managing volunteers, donors and day-to-day operations. Review them to determine which ones best fit your organization’s needs.  In addition, look for inefficiencies in office infrastructure and prioritize needs. This approach will help your organization move methodically towards implementing solutions that have the most impact and provide a clear way forward.

When looking at software solutions, keep in mind the possibility of nonprofits rates from vendors or third-party organizations. Techsoup, for example, offers discounts on basic office tools, such as Office 365, as well as webinars to train your staff on basic office technology such as Microsoft Word or Excel, as well opportunities to purchase laptops, hardware, and other software at nonprofit rates.

Expand Your IT Architecture

Identify ways to expand IT within the organization to better support day-to-day activities and reduce administrative burden.   For instance, moving data to the cloud has advantages for security, backup, and sharing data efficiently, but should be done with an understanding of how the cloud will be accessed by users and ensures that you only pay for what you need.  Increasing mobile connectivity provides advantages for allowing employee flexibility but needs to be planned carefully with budgets and security in mind.

Make Use of Data

Data analytics are becoming increasingly important to expand and target fundraising and/or volunteer campaigns. Select data analytic tools which will help make sense of the data you collect and asking the questions you want answered to tailor your marketing campaigns will ensure you collect appropriate data and build better datasets.

By implementing these recommendations, your nonprofit organization can develop a robust IT strategy to take advantage of existing technology, expand technology appropriately and be more prepared for future requests.

Nonprofit 411: Top 10 Crisis Response Steps

By Chris Dame, Interim Executive SolutionsCD-51

Uh oh. Something has gone wrong at your nonprofit organization.  It could be a crisis.  You need to manage the crisis, contain the damage and emerge to continue your mission’s work.  Interim Executive Solutions Partner Chris Dame brings over 25 years of managing nonprofits and handling crises, both large and small.  Here, condensed for you, is his “Top 10 Crisis Response Steps” list.

(Print out a condensed version for your office here:


  1. Face the Facts:

First, make sure YOU know the facts.  Don’t depend on hearsay.  Gather as much data as possible- times, actions, participants, outcomes – from a range of key sources.  Conduct an independent investigation.  Trust but verify!

Assess the information on the following four issues.  First, what “bad habits” (gaps in operations, in policies, in training) can you identify?  Where there initial assumptions you made that turned out not to be correct?  Were there people, staff, clients, others, that were less than honest or behaved badly?  Did decisions get made that should have been made differently?

Follow the money.  Get professional help if needed.  Pay bills as promised, as much as possible.  Rebuild financial credibility.

  1. Admit Culpability

Acknowledge your mistakes.  Apologize as appropriate. Let stakeholders know that you are aiming for a fresh start. Repeat often:  “That was then.  This is NOW.”

  1. Build a Plan.  Share it Widely

Revisit the organization’s “mission statement”.  Is it still operational?  Is it still appropriate for the organization? If the organization’s operations no longer fit the mission, or if the mission statement no longer reflects the purposes of the organization – then revise the mission statement as needed.

Identify the steps and timeline for “success”.  What stakeholders should be involved.  Determine how long it will take to create.  What changes will be required in the organization and how much will it cost. Where will the funds come from?  What measurements or conditions will let us know we are successful.

Post the plan.   Use the organization’s website, email, Facebook, Twitter and newsletters to let your community and stakeholders know about progress.  Use internal staff bulletin boards to let staff know about progress and expectations.  Prepare, send, and retain copies of official written reports to Board, funders and other key stakeholders.   Keep local press informed of progress.

Adapt to events.  Abandon unworkable elements quickly.  Explain changes, why they’re necessary, apologize as necessary for confusion.  Restate the plan and schedule.

  1. Make a Change:  Take Bold Action Early

Take positive actions.  Find at least one good, useful thing to do and DO IT ASAP.  Seek new programs, fresh ideas, new activities. Take negative actions.   Separate troublemakers.  End money losing programs, no matter how popular.

  1. Strengthen Governance

Improve structure and processes within Board of Directors.  Review and update as necessary the By Laws and Articles of Incorporation.  Convene regular and frequent BoD meetings, including BoD committees.  Pay special attention to the Finance Committee.  Recruit new Board members.  Build a written record of meetings, decisions and participants using minutes.  Post and circulate minutes.

Use technology to support Board activities.  Establish a private location for communicating with Board members and storing Board records, policies, legal documents, committee and sub-committee meetings.  Tools could include Dropbox, Slack, Doodle Poll, Skype, GoToMeeting, group email,  or other comparable technologies.  Make it easy for Board members to stay in touch.  Use conference calls for committees.  Allow call ins for Board meetings.

Reflect and communicate.  Require a unified voice.  Respect the Board Chair role.  Conduct an honest and objective Board self-assessment.  Thank Board members regularly.  It can be a thankless job.

  1. Upgrade Staff

Improve staff structures and processes.  Select and use an objective, formal performance evaluation tool for staff members, implemented quarterly.  Improve staff leadership skills among middle and senior level managers.  Find ways to identify and relieve staff anxiety.  Find ways to engage staff in the future of the organization.

  1. Rebuild Funder Relations

Improve communications with funding organizations as well as local government contacts and supporting businesses.  Present the plan and proposed schedule to these groups in person.  Make promises.  Keep promises.  Maintain contact.  Be clear that there will be a cost to service replacement and remind them they, too, have an investment.  Communicate that they have a role as “turn around” agents.  If the plan is successful, they will share that success.

  1. Check Your Legal Back

Find a good lawyer.  Cooperate with law enforcement.  Attend to human resources issues within the organization.  Anticipate and block internal staff conflicts, finger pointing, claims against fellow staff.  Stand firm against external actors attempting to cause additional problems within the organization or file claims against the organization.

  1. Talk to the Press. Communicate. Communicate.

Request a meeting with editors, bloggers, etc. that have been critical.  Have friends of the organization communicate progress through letters to the editors.  Create positive news events and broadcast via press releases.  Use a wide range of news vehicles:  radio, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog posts…. as appropriate.

Ask funders and related stakeholders to communicate positive news to the press.  Involve staff in community relations.  Tell your story to your clients.

  1. Use Core Values to Move to a Bright Future

Articulate Core Values.  Talk about them with staff.  What do we do best?  What is important about how we do it?  Identify what it takes to get to our highest and best performance.  Unify staff members and Board members in a common future vision.  Seek and identify new leadership to get there.  Choose a new leader, establish a succession plan, describe a new future.

Nonprofit 411: Email Marketing is Always a Good Investment

By Patricia Roundtree, CEO, Dundee Internet Servicesbefore the BIG P

Is email marketing a good investment for non-profits? No need to answer, it’s a rhetorical question. Consider this case: the County Rescue Shelter has a fair amount of community supporters. People are always donating blankets and food, but the shelter also needs money to help pay for upkeep, vet bills and medicine, and other items that blankets and food can’t buy. The Shelter operates on a tight budget, and has discovered with the right email strategy in place, they get the funding they need from individual donors subscribed to their email list.

For the Shelter, email marketing has opened up the opportunity to nurture and build lasting relationships with their list subscribers. Email technology has allowed the Shelter to send out information-packed newsletters on a local level, and at times emergency emails, when a list member’s dog or cat is missing. As a benefit, list members become donors, followers and volunteers. With the right content and attitude, both support for the Shelter’s work and their email list keep growing.

What tips can they share?

  1. Look for ways to grow your list through offering content that list members want to share.
  2. Send messages, not pleas. Ask subscribers to “Take Action”, “Get Involved” or “Give a Gift.”
  3. Personalize your messages. “Dear Mary” is much better than “Dear Subscriber.”
  4. Remind your audience how they helped in the past.
  5. Educate the reader on what’s new, expected changes, new goals.
  6. Segment your list by interest, donor, volunteer or cheerleader.
  7. Compel donors to get involved and appreciate what they do by always saying thank you.
  8. Invite list members to participate in your events.
  9. React to news in your field and share with your readers as an update.
  10. User Trigger email to respond quickly to pointed emails.
  11. Give them attention-grabbing visuals: for example, an emancipated dog to fat happy pup.
  12. Recognize those who that go the extra step with a “Supporter of the Month/Year” article.
  13. Set up a profile page, so your readers can tell you their email preferences. Do they just want newsletters, local announcements or event news?
  14. Set up a discussion list with other shelters to share stories, assistance and ideas.