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.

Nonprofit 411: Boards of Directors Can (and Should) Align Organizations with Future Realities

By Eric Curtis, President, Curtis Strategy EricPic

The business models of nonprofit organizations are changing fast, but boards of directors are far behind the curve in making governance changes to keep up with the shifting landscape.

We are seeing massive disruption in every nonprofit sector due to technology, regulations, and many other factors. Donors and foundations have been trying to encourage nonprofits to prepare for this disruption for the last 5-10 years. Unfortunately, the pace of change in all nonprofit sectors is very slow. Donors and foundations have been trying to influence change through their grant-making strategy, but that too has been slow to evolve. The trend is moving away from small ($2,500-$5,000) grants to larger, more impactful gifts. With the increasing average grant size comes a decrease in the total number of grants available, making competition for grants tougher than ever.

Funders are also looking to ensure that nonprofit organizations will remain viable in the years to come. As a result, many of them are focusing more heavily on the following four areas as part of their giving strategies:

  1. Mergers, collaborations, and shared services: Large numbers of nonprofits are fighting for the same philanthropy. These organizations must find ways to work together with other like-minded nonprofits to leverage talent, share resources, and improve cost-effectiveness.
  1. Business model changes that integrate technology: Greater capacity, better resource management, and improved service can come from technology solutions, which must be adopted at a quicker pace.
  1. Ability to measure impact and capture data: Nonprofits must be able to clearly quantify how their programs are moving the needle and fulfilling their mission. They must establish credible metrics and capture reliable data to support higher-quality decision making.
  1. Building capacity to ensure a strong and capable workforce: Funders recognize that nonprofits need to attract talent to achieve their mission. Most organizations are stretched very thin with staffing resources to tackle new initiatives.

These shifts in funding strategy are not enough to fully drive change. Nonprofit organizations must take on the challenge of becoming more dynamic in the rapidly changing marketplace. This journey begins by building a breakthrough board of directors capable of aligning their organization with future realities.

Great nonprofit organizations build great boards. Boards can either maintain the status quo or lead their organization to new levels of governance, management, and achievement. It is more important now than ever for nonprofit organizations and their boards to be dynamic and adaptable. The boards of the future will need to be more capable, savvy decision makers and stronger players in driving change and adaptation. Boards must be able to think beyond traditional governance to ensure the viability of their organization.

Nonprofit 411: How to beat the Cybercriminals – A True Story

By Ashley Fontes, Communications Manager, Tech Networks of Boston

blog image - AshleyA few weeks ago, one of our clients was hit with a ransomware software attack that made company files inaccessible, leaving most of their employees unable to work for several hours. If you don’t already know about ransomware, this means your files could be locked so that you cannot use them, you could be prevented from accessing Windows, and certain apps could be blocked from running. Worst of all, these cybercriminals demand large amounts of money for files to be retrieved. Sounds like a nightmare, right?

As ransomware attacks are becoming more common, IT engineers are trained to establish preventative measures to recover from an attack if one was to ever occur.  Tech Networks had been working with our nonprofit client for the past two years, reviewing and consistently improving their security as part of an overall infrastructure upgrade. These preventative efforts ended up paying dividends in this situation.

So what happened?

One of the client’s employees noticed the files on their network drive looked different and were unable to be opened. Upon further investigation, our engineer confirmed that the files were encrypted and ransom notes were left in all file folders.

Once the ransomware attack was identified, the organization was able to move forward without panic, as the recovery process was communicated to their employees. Their systems were fully restored within a few hours, with little operational disruption. With a proper backup and disaster recovery plan in place, the nonprofit was able to continue business operations without having to pay a hefty ransom fee to the cybercriminals for their files.

But what about the security features already enabled on machines?

There are several very effective tools and techniques that can help you address many of the common threats and problems, including firewalls, virus production tools, Internet Content filtering, and more. However, if any of these tools were 100% effective, there would be no security breaches. As soon as a known threat is addressed by these tools, a new one emerges.

Some preventative measures to keep you safe:

  • Never let any employee’s account be set to never expire, even if they want it this way.
  • Set password policies to never allow previous passwords, and change passwords every three months.
  • Never send passwords through open email, always use encrypted messages for sensitive information.
  • Using cellphones for SMS texts can be useful as a “back-channel” communication method during an attack, but this method is also not encrypted and the information relayed could be retrieved by an attacker/eavesdropper.
  • Always run security updates and make sure the latest patches are installed on your operating system.

We hope this story can encourage your organization to employ strict password procedures and security practices, and eventually save you from a hefty payment to a cybercriminal.

Remember – the ultimate key to beating ransomware is to prevent, not react.  


5 Lessons after 50 Years

By Pamela Civins, Executive Director, Boston Partners in Education

Pamela-Headshot_thumbI’ve had the privilege of leading the nonprofit organization Boston Partners in Education for the last 11 years. When I joined the organization in 2006, we were in the midst of an identity crisis and needed to get back on track if we wanted to continue serving students in the Boston Public Schools. I decided the first thing I needed to do was listen. After consulting past Board and staff members of the organization, I came away with some valuable lessons that have helped us transform Boston Partners into the successful organization that it is today. Here are five lessons we have learned over our 50 years of supporting Boston’s young people and engaging our community members.

Warning: it’s not all glamorous, but it is worth the investment!

5. Create, maintain and use solid management systems for programming and fundraising. I always tell my staff, “We are in the business of building relationships.” But in order to do our work, we have to put systems in place for tracking progress and outcomes so that everyone is on the same page. Invest in a CRM database that works for your organization, and proceed to use it well.

This then allows all of us on staff and our Board of Directors to conduct our main business — building strong relationships throughout our community.

4. Provide staff, including leadership, ample opportunities for professional development.

No one knows everything and there is always room to strengthen knowledge and skills. Younger staff need an opportunity to learn, grow and take on new responsibilities, like managing internal teams, for example.

For veteran staff, even the executive director, opportunities for professional development help refine skills and build some critical new ones. In my case, for instance, it was to improve my public speaking skills. With a workshop, some great tips on how to get better, and a lot of practice, I can now face a crowd of 500-plus people and represent Boston Partners in Education with the poise and conviction of a strong, respectable leader.

3. Invest in marketing and communications.

Marketing and public relations are critical to success. The community needs to know you exist and why, brands need to be recognizable, and the good work being accomplished should be amplified in the news, on digital channels and at community events.

This leads to developing ambassadors for your organization. For us, helping our Board of Directors talk about Boston Partners in Education with consistent messaging about what our organization does, along with the reasons why they are personally involved and invested, has been a great way to cultivate new friends and new individual and corporate donors.

Having a consistent message that your staff, Board, and friends of the organization are aware of and believe in, activates the internal team as ambassadors as well, allowing them to spread the word about the good work being done in support of our community.

2. Be everywhere, all the time. Invest in ensuring that staff, Board and friends of the organization are out in our community representing the work your nonprofit is doing. If there is a community meeting, send someone. If you are recruiting volunteers, have a table at volunteer fairs around the City. If you are working with a government office, be sure leaders and staff in that office know who your organization is and the work you are doing. If your work can be effected or is related to ongoing policy discussion, join the conversation.

For example, when Mayor Walsh was new to Boston, I made sure that I attended different events where he was speaking and then took time to shake his hand and introduce myself to him. A few months later, we reached out to the Mayor and his office asking if he would participate in our middle school reading initiative, the Big Cheese Reads, and he was happy to jump on board. The conscious effort to be active in the community got him into a Boston Public Schools building, reading aloud and talking with middle school students. It’s a win/win/win — the students get to meet their Mayor; the Mayor gets to meet his future constituents; and Boston Partners in Education gets to make this important introduction to all involved.

1. Invest in strong leadership for the organization.

I am most proud of developing a team of leaders in Boston Partners in Education at all levels. I’ve had a great Board of Directors who have supported my professional growth, and have been able to provide the organization a solid strategic direction, identifying priorities and making them actionable — the key to improving what we do in order to meet our mission.

In 2006, the organization did not have a management team. As time went on, I realized for me to be most effective in my role and for others to be most effective in their roles, we needed to come together as a group to discuss opportunities and challenges Boston Partners was contemplating. Having this team has directly helped to improve the quality of our work over the years. These are strong managers and leaders in the work they do day in and day out. With the correct leaders in place on staff, our organization continues to evolve and perform our work more efficiently each year.

Demonstrating your trust in staff is critical to growth. I’ve become a strong leader thanks in part to my investment in staff who have been willing and eager to take on more and more responsibility and challenge themselves over the years. With a strategic direction and an action plan that is reviewed and updated often, an organization will be able to bring on talent who will stay and ensure that work in the community is being done.


Strengthening your nonprofit takes time. It depends on individuals who believe in the mission and people working to meet the mission. It requires patience to overcome the inevitable bumps in the road. These are just a few of the lessons we, at Boston Partners in Education, have learned over the years.

What has remained consistent — through rewarding and challenging times — is that our work has focused on helping students in Boston succeed academically and personally. That has been our priority for 50 years, and we continue our work to determine how to best ensure our young people, their teachers and our community members are having the best learning experience, together. This helps us achieve our ultimate goal: ensuring that students in Boston are staying in school, achieving, and graduating from high school on time. This is our contribution to our community and we believe that it’s an important one. We will continue to seek advice and learn lessons from our peers as we head into the next 50 years.

Pamela Civins is the Executive Director of Boston Partners in Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) through in-classroom academic mentoring services. To learn more or to become an academic mentor, visit

2017 Nonprofit Awareness Day

Celebrating the Nonprofit Organizations and Individuals Transforming Communities Every Day

NPAD 2017 1On Monday House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, and Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, joined hundreds of nonprofit and business leaders from across Massachusetts at the State House to celebrate MNN’s Nonprofit Awareness Day, presented by Citizens Bank.

In his remarks, Senate President Stan Rosenberg spoke about Massachusetts’ #1 ranking among all 50 states by U.S. News & World Report, and the role that nonprofits played in the ranking factors. Secretary Jay Ash spoke about his excitement in participating in this year’s program, sharing stories about how nonprofits impacted his childhood and made him a better city manager in Chelsea. MNN Preview-03 (1)And House Speaker Robert DeLeo spoke about the invaluable contributions the nonprofit sector has made to Massachusetts, stressing the importance of continued partnerships between the nonprofit sector and state leaders.

After the remarks from state leaders and a welcome from presenting sponsor Citizens Bank, Nonprofit Excellence Awards were presented to four organizations and two professionals exemplifying the innovative and effective work done by nonprofits across Massachusetts. The winners each shared impactful stories about their work and what their respective organizations have been able to accomplish.

Congratulations to the 2017 Excellence Award Winners:

We hope that the stories of our Nonprofit Excellence Award winners and the #nonprofitsmakesense social media campaign remind all of us of the unlimited potential we have as a sector when we stand together. Thank you to the elected officials, our emcee Kristy Lee, our sponsors, supporters, attendees, and finalists for helping make this celebration such a success. To see additional pictures of the event click here.

MNN Announces New Board Chair

The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) is pleased to announce that Jim Ayres has been elected as the next Chair of the Network’s Board of Directors. Ayres will succeed David Shapiro, CEO of Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership, who has chaired the MNN board since 2011.

“I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to guide this important and dynamic organization,” Ayres said. “The state’s nonprofit sector is a critical social and economic engine that impacts each and every resident of Massachusetts. I look forward to working with nonprofit, business, and government leaders across the state to support the sector and, ultimately, help build a better Commonwealth.”

“We are thrilled to have Jim Ayres chairing our board as MNN enters its second decade,” said Jim Klocke, MNN’s CEO. “He is an exceptional leader, who has extensive nonprofit programming and policy experience. Jim has been a valuable member of our board for the last three years, and we cannot wait to work more closely with him.”

Ayres, who joined MNN’s board in 2014, will assume the role of President and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley, based in Springfield, later this month. For the last six years, he has served as the Executive Director of the United Way of Hampshire County. Under his leadership, the organization received widespread recognition for its innovative approaches to grant making, resource development, public messaging, and creating positive change in the community.

Prior to joining United Way, Ayres led the Northampton-based Center for New Americans, an education and resource center for immigrants and refugees, for 12 years. He holds a BA from Hampshire College, an MBA from UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, and an MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In addition to MNN, Ayres serves on the boards of the Institute for Training and Development and the Hampshire County Council of Social Agencies.

MNN is extremely thankful for all that Shapiro has done to support the organization, and the state’s nonprofit sector, during his tenure as Chair. In recognition of this, MNN’s Governance Committee has decided to appoint him as a Director Emeritus, with his term beginning in June.

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.