Volunteer Safety and Management

Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofits, houses of worship and other organizations that serve the greater good. It’s important, then, to keep them safe—and to make sure they are safe for your organization. One of the first steps is checking your level of insurance to safeguard your organization in the event of an illness, injury or other problematic event. Then, you need to take a close look at your practices.

Church Mutual has developed the following list to help organizations ensure their volunteers, and those they interact with, remain safe.

  1. Defend volunteers against the coronavirus. As we continue navigating the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, remember you need to alter your operations, practices and procedures to prevent the virus’ spread. Provide protective equipment for all volunteers—including gloves and face coverings—and encourage frequent hand washing and social distancing.
  2. Screen all volunteers. Background checks are not enough. When you bring new volunteers into your organization, use an intensive screening process that requires a comprehensive application, references and an interview, as well as a background check. By the time a volunteer starts working, you should have a clear understanding of his or her motivations and prior experience.
  3. Train all volunteer drivers on safe driving practices. Check each volunteer’s motor vehicle records before allowing them to drive on your organization’s behalf. If they will be using their own vehicle, ensure they carry up-to-date auto insurance. Drivers who will be operating a 15-passenger van should review Church Mutual’s transportation safety resources to make sure they understand the increased risks of driving such a vehicle.
  4. Help volunteers avoid slips, trips and falls by maintaining your facility. Install safety mats, ensure you have proper lighting in all areas and keep floors free of tripping hazards.
  5. Safeguard your volunteers against the elements during outdoor events. If it’s a hot, sunny day, provide plenty of sunblock and water and encourage volunteers to take breaks in shaded areas. If it’s a stormy day, stay inside when you see lightning. If it’s raining and your volunteers still want to be outside, make sure they have the proper footwear to prevent them from slipping. If it’s icy, use salt or sand on sidewalks and other areas where people walk.
  6. Provide an easily accessible and well-stocked first aid kit for volunteers. Accidents happen, and you need to be prepared. Church Mutual has created a handy list of items that should be in all first aid kits. Make sure all volunteers know where to find a first aid kit in the event one is needed.

Without volunteers, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that you do, which is why you should invest your time in developing a volunteer safety and management program.


Solving for Gaps in Health Equity

By: Unite Us

The recognition that community conditions and social needs significantly influence health
outcomes is not new. The pandemic has underscored this point and highlighted the known
health disparities and structural inequities existing between communities.

Effectively addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) requires dynamic sets of data
providing insight into local community needs and opportunities. We must address SDoH by
gaining a deeper understanding of individuals’ lived experiences and health outcomes—not by
disassociating them from the systems in which they exist, but by contextualizing them within the
inequities those systems create. At Unite Us, we’ve identified five principles for advancing
health equity through the use of SDoH data.

Five Principles for Using SDoH Data to Improve Health Equity

1. Ensure communities and individuals most impacted have power to make decisions.

CBOs can gain agency through shared decision making driven by the data they produce. This is
an important strategy for dismantling structural and institutional barriers to health equity and
unifying how we reach community investment decisions.

2. Leverage the power of referral data to improve access to social care.

We need to be clear on what we should measure, how often, and why. Data collection practices,
such as client interview questions, should be person centered and avoid asking clients to retell
traumatic stories across different providers. Data analysis should account for biases that lead to
inaccuracies, uninformed conclusions, or exacerbated disparities. It’s critical that outcomes data
indicate whether organizations connect a client to services and address their social needs.
Without it, their story is not complete.

3. Measure and evaluate data.

Health-equity-oriented evaluations should be designed to understand what works, for whom,
and under what conditions. They should reveal whether health inequities have changed over
time. Achieving this level of understanding can be challenging. A good first step is incorporating
health equity activities, goals, and expected outcomes into a program or intiative’s conceptual
framework or logic model to clarify the intended effects of the initiative or program on health
equity outcomes.

4. Remove barriers to data sharing.

Appropriately addressing SDoH requires removing barriers to data sharing across the systems
individuals interact with regularly. The health, social needs, and situations of clients served by
healthcare and community organizations continuously change. As clients move across sectors
and through referral pathways, their changing situations must accurately reflect wherever and
whenever an individual accesses social care. They should receive person-centered and
trauma-informed care, eliminating the need to recount traumatic experiences each time they
access services.

5. Use data to drive action.

The complexity and persistence of health disparities requires an approach grounded in public
and political will for change combined with cross-system collaboration. Across sectors,
stakeholders should consider how enhanced technology and data infrastructure can help
advance health-related policies. Doing so, stakeholders can prioritize meeting community
members’ social needs and developing policies that redistribute resources equitably to prevent
those needs from occurring at all.

At Unite Us, we believe evaluating social care data at scale meaningfully contributes to health
equity, and analyzing the relationship between health and social care data leads to valuable
insights about how to improve overall health. For a deeper discussion on bridging gaps in health
equity, download this white paper to learn more



Mosaic: Creating Community Across Faith Traditions

My project - 2022-07-18T122021.689-min

In May we invited MNN members to tell us about the work they’re doing to build stronger communities. When Mosaic: Interfaith Action reached out, we knew we wanted to share their story.

Mosaic, formerly known as Kids4Peace Boston, is an interfaith youth organization that works with faith communities throughout Boston to provide experiential learning programs. The organization leads programs for students ages 12 through 18 that instill nonviolent communication and diverse relationship-building skills at a critical identity-development stage of student’s lives. Mosaic connects students that come from the same neighborhood and from different faith traditions to learn from one another.

Last year Mosaic piloted the Circles of Action initiative, a free after school program with a social justice focus. They held a listening campaign and learned that the students wanted to spotlight mental health—at a time when many adults were calling for increased awareness of the same subject. The students created an advocacy plan, reviewed a State House bill, and shared their insights with Mayor Wu*. The initiative concluded with each student illustrating what mental health meant to them on a ceramic tile. Circles of Action will continue in the wake of the pilot’s success, with next year’s focus on climate justice. Executive Director Matt Anderson, said the Mosaic team felt they had achieved their mission when a group of students from different faiths went out for ice cream together after the program.

Mosaic’s story serves as a reminder of the role nonprofits fulfill. In spite of the divisiveness that surrounds us, nonprofits with an array of missions are working tirelessly to establish a more positive, equitable future for everyone.

*Participants of the Circles of Action program received a letter in response from Mayor Wu on their policy recommendations. Read the letter here.

To learn more about Mosaic: Interfaith Youth Action, visit their website at this link.

For comments or article inquiries, please contact Jessica Holmes at jholmes@massnonprofitnet.org.

Time For a Six-Month Check-In

By: John F. Gillespie, Nonprofit and Social Enterprise Practice Leader – Charles River CFO

With the restrictive concerns of COVID receding into the background, nonprofits have been returning to their mission and association work more robustly. This positive energy may be offset by the tightening labor market stretching staff even thinner, as well as the reality of inflation impacting all costs, including salaries. Flexible staffing and the ability to model various operational and financial strategies are critical right now for success. Over the next six months, nonprofits will need to consider what is required to respond to a future that may be financially challenging but hopefully without dramatic economic swings.

Here are several strategies to consider now.

  • Explore new ideas for earned income that set you apart from others. What about a new service or location if you have a strong brand?
  • What is not critical for the next six months? Can a new project, staff development program, or new hire be pushed out six months?
  • Now is the time to start if you are not doing monthly cash flow forecasts projecting out at least three months.
  • Are you getting accurate monthly financial statements on time and having actional data to make decisions?
  • Develop three budget scenarios for 2023. One with expected revenue, one with 20% more and one with 50% less. Model various organizational outcomes at these different revenue levels.
  • Assess your current level of risk and evaluate appropriate levels of insurance. Don’t underestimate the importance of cyber insurance.
  • Review staffing to understand who are the top performers and what is needed to retain them. Evaluate ways to engage them in new responsibilities, invite them to present to a Board meeting, and provide more opportunities to be leaders and have their voices heard.
  • If you think a headcount reduction plan is in the future, make sure you fully understand all the state and federal requirements as well as the best way to implement.
  • Conduct a vendor review to ensure all the terms and conditions are well understood and determine if payments could be optimized. Pay on time, not early, to retain cash. Or negotiate a discount if payments are made before the due date.
  • Mine your donor database to match messaging and additional giving options to appropriate donor segments.

Move forward or fall behind. Those are the only choices. Be proactive. Have an excellent financial/cash model in place but execute your plan. Inaction is not the optimal course. We are at the six-month mark for 2022. Where do you want to see your organization at the end of December 2022?

About Charles River CFO

Charles River CFO (CRCFO) provides outsourced finance, accounting, tax, HR, and recruiting services to nonprofits throughout the eastern seaboard from Maine to Washington D.C.

logo_master (1)-min

Talent Acquisition, Transparency and Compensation: From Posting to Negotiation

By Lisa McKeown, Danisha Martin and Eric Salyers – Nonprofit HR

Successfully recruiting a candidate starts long before the job posting. It starts with understanding the critical role of transparency in your organization’s compensation practices and how it factors into the talent acquisition process. By prioritizing a partnership between total rewards and talent acquisition, your organization can create and sustain a compensation approach that also advances equity in your entire talent acquisition process. 

Compensation: Beyond What Your Organization Pays its Employees 

An internal compensation structure is the foundation on which your compensation offer to a potential candidate is formed. A compensation philosophy comes into play next, which is the outward statement, to your staff and board, of inward practices and a commitment to how diversity, equity and inclusion are infused into compensation decisions. As a guide, this statement ensures equity is at the forefront of your compensation, and talent acquisition, processes. Displaying this statement will also foster greater transparency and trust with both staff and potential candidates.

However, compensation doesn’t just come as a paycheck. For example, offering unlimited paid time off (PTO) or transportation support can be an immense benefit because compensation no longer reigns as the driving force for job seekers. In fact, only 32% of respondents in the 2021 Nonprofit Talent Retention Practices Survey considered compensation/benefits a primary reason to leave a job. Candidates are now embracing the need to work in an impactful role that aligns with their values. Thus, consider how flexible your organization can be when designing new hire offers to add this type of value and reinforce brand differentiation.

Transparency: Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Posting the position salary range in a job description demonstrates that your staff know the compensation structure for each position, where they fit in the structure and how equity plays into salary decisions. It indicates that the organization has done the work—and that is an organization candidates want to join. 

If you are a leader, you may have a fear of transparent compensation conversations with staff, even if there is an established structure in place. But staff want to know that they’re being paid fairly and are often comparing salaries amongst themselves. Thus, outlining how compensation decisions are made and highlighting opportunities for career (i.e. salary) growth are how to keep staff motivated and engaged, and set the organization up to thrive.

Talent Acquisition and Total Rewards Partnership

A collaborative partnership between your talent acquisition and total rewards teams ensures a continuous feedback loop of understanding the structures, practices and processes in place, which can encourage organizational cohesiveness and efficiency. For example, your total rewards team can partner with the hiring manager to determine specific role ranges and ensure they know how the structures work. It is also imperative to assess whether your compensation structures are attracting the right candidates your organization is seeking, indicating areas of opportunity to infuse equity

To strengthen this partnership, start by providing each other resources. Consider having your total rewards team create a one pager of your benefits offerings for your talent acquisition team, or participate in salary surveys, which will give your organization a baseline of reliable data to begin benchmarking. The goal is to create a symbiotic partnership between each team of subject matter experts to effectively operationalize your organization’s commitment to equity. 

View the accompanying webinar recording here.


Originally published on nonprofithr.com.

Nonprofit HR-Logo-TwoColors-NoTagline-NoIcon-min

Picture a Scorpion’s Tail!

Have you heard of tail spend?

Even if you haven’t, it exists in your not-for-profit organization somewhere on your Statement of Financial Activities. Simply put, “tail spend” refers to the 20% of your administrative overhead that you don’t have time to manage as tightly as you’d like.

The best way to think about tail spend is by recalling the Pareto Principle – the 80:20 rule. On the expense side of a not-for-profit’s statement of financial activities the 80% represents costs associated with the organization’s core purpose: what the organization spends on people and programs. That’s where financial managers direct their time and energy, and rightly so. And consistent with the Pareto Principle, that 80% of expenses is clustered around 20% of the suppliers – the core of key vendors who are closely managed and, for that reason, subject to all the proper controls.


Conversely, 20% of a not-for-profit’s expenses – the “tail spend” – is associated with cost categories that aren’t core to the organization’s mission but are nonetheless essential. On the “tail” you typically find things like copier contracts and printer leases, telecom and data plans, payroll service fees, benefits insurance, property and casualty insurance, uniforms and linen rentals, software subscriptions, merchant card fees (especially relevant for cultural not-for-profits that sell memberships or charge admission), food service, etc.

What’s difficult is that the tail – that non-core 20% of a not-for-profit’s expenses – is where you find 80% of the organization’s suppliers. And unlike the 20% of suppliers who serve the not-for-profit’s core mission (and for that reason command financial managers’ attention), that 80% of the organization’s suppliers – the non-core suppliers – are much less likely to be closely managed or subject to proper controls.
In some organizations – it doesn’t matter whether they’re for-profit or not-for-profit – it’s not unusual to find that the cost of processing and paying invoices related to tail spend purchases sometimes exceeds the value of the goods or services received.

So, what can you do to put controls around your tail spend?

• Chart your total spending: how does the Pareto Principle apply among the suppliers to your organization? (For an example, see the graph below.)
• Study the data: are there cost categories in which spending is dissipated among a disproportionate number of suppliers?
• Prepare a negotiation strategy: are there opportunities to consolidate spending among a shorter list of preferred suppliers – i.e., reward them for giving you better service and lower costs?
• Leverage your dissipated purchasing power; shorten the tail; gain visibility to your spending; create metrics to measure your success in controlling your non-core administrative expenses.

A Pareto-style assessment of your tail spend opportunities will yield between 10% and 30% savings in each and every cost category you attempt. Why leak cash when you can redeploy it to enhance your mission?

Making financial wellness attainable for everyone

How underrepresented groups view their financial health – and how employers can help

When it comes to financial well-being, Americans are generally optimistic. According to new research conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Empower Retirement, more than half of people surveyed believe they can attain financial health.

However, this confidence is not consistent across racial and ethnic groups. Only 38% of Hispanic Americans and 43% of Black Americans consider themselves financially healthy compared to 51% of white Americans. While the research reveals critical inequalities in terms of how different groups view their financial wellness, it also identifies a clear opportunity for employers to step in and create meaningful change.

Almost three-quarters (73%) of people of color say the concept of financial health needs a makeover — and companies must redefine it so it is more realistic and attainable.

While the specific goalposts employees set for their financial well-being differ across racial and ethnic groups, Americans generally agree about their big-picture financial ideals. Unfortunately, survey results suggest that some underrepresented groups are less likely to feel they have reached those important goals.

Infographic - Financial goals across racial groups
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of white Americans say they have bought a home compared to only 47% of Hispanic Americans and 35% of Black Americans.
  • Similarly, 46% of white Americans say they’re on track to retire when they want to compared to 27% of Hispanic Americans and 33% of Black Americans.
  • And while Asian Americans feel more confident about having an emergency fund and being debt free, they still lag behind white Americans on home ownership and retirement.

How employers can help

From an employer perspective, understanding employee progress towards their goals can serve as guideposts for financial well-being offerings. They can help prioritize what financial education, advice and resources may help the most.

And whereas more than six in 10 people of color want help on their financial wellness journey, employers’ engagement and advice efforts can fall short if they are not careful to build trust and connect with their audience in an authentic way. Download the research brief to learn more.

Research paper download - Making Financial Wellness Attainable for Everyone

Download research paper

The Massachusetts CORE Plan is an affiliate member of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. The CORE Plan is a 401(k) retirement plan designed specifically for small Massachusetts nonprofits. For additional information about the CORE Plan, please contact Lisa Cardinal at 617-510-4036 or lisa.cardinal@empower.com or visit www.ma-employer-core.com.

I Can’t Get Donors to Talk to Me: The Donor Engagement Call

mindfulness webinar Instagram landscape (1)-minYou’ve identified donors you’d like to get to know better.  How do you get these donors on the phone? 

  1. Core premise:  We want to serve you better. 
  2. Eliminate “ask” anxiety: Come right out and say that you won’t be asking for a gift—and don’t! (Really—this works!)
  3. Ask questions that will help you learn more about the donor’s interests, values and beliefs.
  4. Get permission for a next step and set a date.
  5. Smile during the call.
  6. Record notes.
  7. Make good on anything you said you would do.
  8. Tailor communications based on what you learned.
  9. Keep at it.  Only one out of three or four donors will want to engage more deeply.

Prepare the donor for your call

(Recommendation: Contact 10 donors at a time)

Donor receives a letter or email introduction to you from the CEO/ED 

  • ABC Nonprofit is committed to better serving its <supporters/members/volunteers> and we’d love to hear what you think.
  • <Person making the call>, in whom I have the utmost confidence, will be contacting you shortly. 
  • [If you don’t have a phone number:] We don’t have a phone number for you.  What would be the best number for <first name of person making the call> to use? [If communicating by letter, provide email address to which to respond with a phone number.]
  • Warm, gratitude-based sign-off

Make the call, for example:

Hi Jackie, This is Mark Jones from the board of ABC Nonprofit. I’m the person <CEO/ED> mentioned in their recent <letter/email>.  [speak slowly and clearly] I’m calling to thank you for being such a wonderful <supporter/member/volunteer> and see how we can better serve you. And Jackie, I won’t be asking you for a donation on this call—I promise!  

[This is a good place to take a breath. The donor will let you know if it’s not a good time. If that’s the case, arrange a time for a 10-15 minute call.]

I’d love to learn more about your story—about why you started <supporting/subscribing/volunteering> at ABC Nonprofit. What got you going with us? 

What is it that you think we do best?

What would you like less of?

If the donor is enthused, keep it going:

[Depending on what you do:] Has our work—or the work of other organizations like ours, impacted anyone you know personally?

[For donors] If it’s OK with you Jackie, I love to learn about how people get started with giving. What is your first memory of making a gift? Follow-up:  What is the best gift you ever made?

Listen for how well the donor’s interests and beliefs intertwine with your work. 

If the donor is not engaged, thank the donor for their time.

Otherwise, the next step might be:

  • An in-person or Zoom visit to explore in more detail projects/initiatives that ABC Nonprofit is working on that might be of interest to the donor. Can this be an “ask” visit? Yes. With permission. Meet the donor where they are.
  • A tour of the facility (if applicable)

From value comes engagement. And, as always, “get on the phone.”

A shout-out to iMarketSmart for coining the term “engagement fundraising.”


Beyond the Buzzword, Part 2: How Can Critical Race Theory Further Your Nonprofit’s Equity and Inclusion Work?


By YW Boston

Last month we spoke with Dr. Sarah Faude, YW Boston’s Director of Research and Evaluation, about Critical Race Theory (CRT) and why it is misunderstood. This month, we continue our conversation and discover how CRT can support your nonprofit’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.

How can understanding Critical Race Theory support DEI initiatives?

Critical Race Theory pushes us to ask “why” when looking at outcomes, norms, and institutional practices. YW Boston draws from several different theories, including CRT, to focus on root cause analyses. It pushes us to ask, “in what ways are things unequal?” and “how do we change it?”

Organizations talk about how it is frustrating that their staff isn’t diverse. They feel that the problem is too big. Where CRT can be helpful is slowing down to think about what are all the different policies and practices you do control. For instance, focus on policies in your handbook, who you reach out to with a job posting, how you expect employees to “show up” at work. These may not always impact who applies to your job but will impact whether people stay. Too often we see that the issue isn’t getting people of color in the door or even to the interviewing stage, but it’s getting people of color to stay once hired. Once you’ve narrowed the scope of the problem to things within your organization, you have a lot to work with.

How are you using Critical Race Theory in your work as Director of Research and Evaluation?

Connecting Critical Race Theory to evaluation creates more room in the conversation. When we decenter Whiteness, it is not to disregard Whiteness, but to make room for more at the center. When we’re working with partners, we are disproportionately working with White people. Anytime you average the experience of everyone in the room, you’re looking at a whitewashed average because there are more White people in your sample.

One of the things I’m working towards is to start pulling out subsets that are specifically the experiences of women, people of color, and more specifically women of color. So, we listen to both the average, and we pull out value and amplify that subgroup in the spirit of CRT’s counternarratives. Their experiences need to be elevated to help complicate what we think may or may not be happening within organizations.

What is the role of “complicating” in organizational change?

I think that by asking complicated questions, you’re going into the weeds. That complexity is always opportunity. It helps us see all the different opportunities that we have before us we might have missed. Like asking, “How do we fix our culture at our organization?” Well, let’s take that big thing and start breaking it down into its component parts by who works there, the documents, the practices. If we can both have the big picture goal in mind and be in those weeds, we have an opportunity to innovate and work towards inclusion.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I ServicesInclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sheera@ywboston.org.

Nonprofit 411: Social Media During COVID-19

Nonprofit 411 HEARD 9.21-minBy HEARD Strategy and Storytelling

For many nonprofit organizations, sustainability is always a top priority. An organization’s goal of delivering on its mission during the Covid-19 pandemic has likely brought many challenges. Social media has grown to be an essential part of maintaining relationships and fundraising for nonprofits across the globe.

Social media, since the medium’s inception, has been a tool to help people connect. This is no different for nonprofits and their supporters. Because of the pandemic, organizations have had to heavily rely on social media to highlight the work they’ve been doing, as well as create and cultivate virtual connections. Each platform is a tool that can be used to introduce new people to your organization in various ways, as well as highlight key happenings with those who are already familiar with your work. Social media has given the opportunity to quickly share information and engage with those you share it with. People can have conversations, not only about you and your work, but also with you. Covid-19 has forced many conversations to be held, in some capacity, online and social media has been the perfect platform for that to happen.

Fundraising plays a vital role in the survival of nonprofits. Organizations have been pushed to create new, innovative ways to raise money since early 2020. Social media has presented new opportunities to bring in that funding in ways that might not have been thought about before being forced into this new reality. By using platforms like Facebook and Instagram, events can be streamed to give supporters the feel of being there, while remaining in the safety of their own home.

One considerable benefit of social media is the cost. There is little to no cost to reach people through social media. Organic posts will reach those in your network, while creating relatively inexpensive sponsored posts can reach a larger target market. The potential reach is ultimately determined by the cost and demographics of your selected audience. It would be likely that your return on investment would be greater during the pandemic because of an increased amount of screen time for many people. Because of this, it might seem like you’re more susceptible to competing to be on your audience’s radar. That’s why, now more than ever, it’s important for nonprofits to capitalize on this opportunity to provide valuable content to really keep their audience engaged during this exceptional time.

A few tips:

  • Be consistent – you will not be able to build an engaged audience with sporadic posts.
  • Use hashtags – this will drive people with shared interests to your posts.
  • Provide a call to action – tell your supporters what you want them to do.
  • Engage – the point of social media is to BE SOCIAL!

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced people and organizations to discover new ways to create meaningful connections online. Various in-person restrictions have presented an array of challenges when it comes to connecting nonprofits with their audiences and supporters since March of 2020. During a time when physical connections have been so difficult to maintain, social media platforms have become essential in forging a virtual path to continue missions, as well as drive in new patrons and stay connected with current audiences.