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

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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.

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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.

Nonprofit 411: Accounting for Nonprofits: Understanding Your Finances

Nonprofit 411 Jitasa-minBy Jitasa

You didn’t start working in the nonprofit sector to stare at financial documentation, decipher challenging math equations, and file annual tax forms. However, that comes with the territory of nonprofit accounting. 

Especially now, as strategic plans have gone awry in light of the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, non-accountants can benefit tremendously from developing a basic understanding of nonprofit accounting concepts. This general understanding will help you better react to these economic difficulties and help you create forward-thinking plans that take into account financial best practices. 

The aspect of nonprofit accounting that impacts each and every team member is the formation and approval of your annual budget.

Approving your annual budget is one of your nonprofit board’s many responsibilities. Meanwhile, calculating the budget is a job for the finance department, and implementing it falls to your development and programming teams. 

A drop in the expected revenue and cuts in the budgetary expenses are not reflective of the amount of faith in your team members but are the result of a series of complex calculations informed by previous years’ metrics. 

Jitasa’s nonprofit accounting guide explains that your revenue will be informed by either the discount or cutoff methods: 


  • Discount method: Using this method, your finance team organizes your expected revenue by source, then multiplies that expected amount by the probability that you’ll receive the revenue. For instance, if you have an 80% chance of receiving a grant worth $10,000, the budgeted revenue for that grant will be $8,000. 
  • Cutoff method: The cutoff method uses a similar approach, but analyzes expected revenue as a whole instead of separate sources. Your finance team multiplies your entire expected revenue by the probability that you’ll receive it. For example, if you expect to raise $1 million in total, but have a 75% chance of fundraising that much, you’ll budget for $750,000 in expected revenue. 

Meanwhile, your expenses can be broken down into specific categories. These categories not only help you understand where finances are going, but also match up with the expense categories listed on your annual Form 990. This ultimately makes it easier to keep accurate records and to file tax forms. These categories include: 


  • Fundraising expenses. These are the expenses that you incur to raise additional funds. They can be further broken down into your marketing costs, software investments, event costs, and other expenses that you take on to gain funding. 
  • Administrative expenses. Administrative expenses are often fixed costs that you must pay to keep the doors open at your organization. They include things like employee salary, rent, utilities, and tools for data management.
  • Program expenses. These are the costs that you incur to actually work toward and achieve your organization’s mission in the community. For instance, a dog shelter would lump the veterinary bills and cost of leashes in with program expenses. 

Nonprofit accounting is a multifaceted entity that encompasses a wide range of topics. However, your budgeting process is one of those facets that everyone at your organization should have a grip on so that you can effectively raise funds and allocate them responsibly. 

How Nonprofits Can Foster More Meaningful Virtual Engagement With Their Employees

By YW Boston

2020 was a year that many nonprofits experienced a new and unexpected transition into partially remote or completely remote work. As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic and grapple with increasing social unrest, including the recent violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, it is as important as ever to prioritize practicing empathy with our employees and colleagues. As we begin the year 2021, it’s important for organizations to re-examine their expectations for employees to continue conducting business as usual. Leaders must allow time for employees to process the impact of such uncertainty in their lives. When having any work-related virtual meetings, nonprofit leaders and supervisors can adjust their practices to foster more meaningful virtual engagement. Keeping employees engaged in online spaces is critical to staying socially connected while physically distant. Here are some things to consider when interacting with your employees using digital mediums.

Redefine (virtual) employee engagement

Employee engagement has transformed in the virtual space. First, let’s define what we mean by “virtual engagement.” Virtual engagement refers to all and any employee interactions that occur online, whether those are “live” and synchronous, such as video conference or voice call, or asynchronous, such as chat or emails.

Account for, and normalize, distractions

In the online realm, active and passive engagement appear a bit differently. It’s important not to confuse passive engagement with active resistance. While someone may have their camera off during a video call, for instance, that does not mean they are not fully engaged. As employees juggle new variables such as sharing their remote workspaces, increased caregiving responsibilities, and other challenges arising from working remotely during a pandemic and political crisis, employers must remain flexible and empathetic during this time.

Continuously gauge engagement and adjust accordingly

Measuring virtual engagement is a necessary step for readjusting and making modifications that will improve the quality of your interactions. As a meeting facilitator, check in with participants to see how they are feeling, what their energy level is like, and to learn whether they feel prepared for the meeting or virtual presentation they are about to participate in. If you are providing new information, be sure to check for understanding. And at the end of the meeting, check in again to see if people’s disposition or feelings have changed, and to see if they want to provide any feedback. Make note of your own observations, such as how many people participated, how often did people participate, did anyone seem to dominate the conversation, and so on.

Practice and improve your virtual facilitation skills

As a leader or supervisor, you have a responsibility to foster more meaningful engagement during virtual meetings. It’s a good practice to familiarize yourself with virtual platforms before facilitating or participating in a meeting. As much as possible, avoid troubleshooting during a meeting or presentation. If necessary, host a practice run, review a tutorial, or identify a virtual assistant who can help you. You must also commit to facilitation and be present by minimizing as many distractions as possible. Turn off email and other notifications, silence your phone, maximize the virtual meeting to full screen, etc. Practice active listening. Acknowledge people when they speak, make “eye contact” by looking at your webcam, nod or provide reaffirmations via chat, etc.


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 services—InclusionBoston 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: Top Five Things Every Nonprofit Leader Should Know About Finance

Nonprofit 411 Night Heron-min

By Ellen Sturgis, Principal of Night Heron Consulting

People don’t get involved in nonprofits because they love finance! It’s about the mission right? But Executive Directors and Board members still hold fiduciary responsibility to ensure that resources are managed, protected, and used well. Here is my list of the questions you should ask about five key financial reports.

  1. Balance Sheet: The easiest number to understand is the cash balances, right? But what’s the right amount for your organization? A simple test: Divide your annual expense budget by 12. Divide your cash balances by that number. The result is the value of the months’ cash on hand. Is it under 6 months? That may be a concern. Look back to last year to observe cash fluctuations. This is your short term insurance against unforeseen events.
  2. Operating (P&L) Statement: Income. Understand where your revenues come from. Compared to last year, are you seeing a similar pattern of, for example, 50% donations and 50% grants? How likely are you to get the same grants every year? If there is a concentration in one area, how reliable is that year to year? I worked with one organization that depended on their annual Gala for over 70% of their annual revenue. Not good, especially when a pandemic forces the event’s cancellation.
  3. Operating (P&L) Statement: Expenses. As a leader of the organization, get comfortable with the general mix of expenses. Most nonprofits reflect a people-heavy budget: 70% in personnel and related costs isn’t terribly unusual—so don’t freak out. If you’re used to a commercial business, it may look odd, but it’s okay.
  4. Cash Flow: For many nonprofits that don’t have a cash reserve, this is the most critical report, and you may not even get one. Based on the income mix, are there certain months that are flush with cash (often December with year end appeals, for example)? Are there tight months (often summer) where expenses continue but revenue does not? Ask to see a monthly summary, from the previous year or two. Is that cash balance calculated above enough to get you through tight months?
  5. Budget: Most nonprofits have and vote on an annual budget. But remember, this is your roadmap to meeting your mission: no resources = no growth. If your organization wants to start a new program, is now the time if you’ve had losses in the last two years? Are new funding sources available? Will you have the cash or need a line of credit? These are the questions to consider, not just “do we break even”.

A PS about your annual audit—this isn’t just a requirement, it’s a terrific opportunity to get an independent assessment of your financial operations. Whether a review or full audit, two key suggestions: make sure the Board meets with the auditors without staff present, for a frank conversation. And I suggest changing audit firms at least every five years, especially if your staff stays the same.

A final word about all this in the time of COVID. When it comes to finance, the key concern should be the separation of duties. Talk to your auditors for suggestions. If only one person is opening and depositing donations, are you finding other ways to protect your organization’s gifts? Scanning and recording all documentation is critical. This protects everyone involved.