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BizWorld Lesson #2: Invest in Good People

This article is part of a series titled "Lessons from the Biz World" where we explore valuable aspects of the for-profit sector that can be applied to nonprofit management and translate into a more efficient, stable and successful organization with a greater impact.  Lesson 2: Invest in good people When it comes to finding passionate, experienced and intelligent people to work for your Nonprofit, it's important to budget appropriate funds to attract top talent. Just like at a for-profit company, acquiring and retaining people who have the proper skills and drive might come at a cost, but it is the sort of investment necessary to create long-term success conditions within an organization.  Contributors Melissa Beck Chief Executive Officer Carlos Leija Chief Development Officer Lessons from the Biz World The for-profit business world offers many valuable lessons that can be applied to nonprofit management. In this series we look at how these can translate into a more efficient, stable and successful organization that has a greater impact.  Lesson 1: Manage capital wisely   Lesson 2: Invest in good people  Lesson 3: Track & measure EVERYTHING Lesson 4: Utilize branding strategies  Lesson 5: Manage your donor base like customers Lesson 6: Overhead is not negative Lesson 7: Embrace resistance “Some of our youth are on the cusp of either making it or not. When I say not making it, that could mean living in a park, incarceration, death, or falling victim to human trafficking,” says Carlos Leija, Chief Development Director for Orangewood Children Foundation. “So we really invest in who we hire ‒ knowledgeable individuals who truly know what it means to work for a Nonprofit, who want to make an impact and, in our case, foster youths.” Find the Right Talent How can you find the right talent for your Nonprofit? Network, network, network! Leverage your professional and personal connections on sites like LinkedIn and even Facebook to post job openings and discover candidates. This is going to be your least expensive option since it only requires your time.  Don't hesitate to use your board as a resource for finding and developing new employees. “We’re fortunate to have a very strong and influential board of directors. They bring business sense, leadership and knowledge, as they generously invest their time to help us guide and govern our organization,” Leija explains. You can also make some small investments in recruitment. Place job postings with leading job listing sites such as or You can also hire a recruiter to take the lead if you lack the time or skills to manage the process, but that can be expensive so you may want to use this option as a last resort. Make a Competitive Offer Once you've found the ideal candidate, it's time to make a competitive offer to get that talent onboard. Check the latest salary trends before entering negotiations. You can use sites like or, but check multiple sources because job valuations can vary quite a bit. Establish an initial salary offer you think is fair based on the candidate's qualifications, the job and standards within the industry. It's also important to set a maximum salary above your initial offer that your board would be comfortable with to give yourself a little wiggle room in case you get a counter offer.

  • 10 min read
  • Oct 28, 2014 12:08:00 PM

BizWorld Lesson #1: Running Your Nonprofit More Like a For-Profit Business

Running a nonprofit organization (NPO) is all about making a positive impact, which is why many people exit the for-profit sector and dedicate themselves to a career that prioritizes social impact over the bottom line. Not surprisingly, some of the most successful nonprofits use the same strategies that big businesses use to not only stay in the black but also grow exponentially. With more money and resources comes the opportunity to make a bigger difference. Have you considered ways you can run your nonprofit more like a business? We asked two prominent figures in the southern California nonprofit sector for help answering this question: Melissa Beck Chief Executive Officer Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County Carlos Leija Chief Development Officer Orangewood Children's Foundation   There are many fundamental differences between nonprofits and businesses, not least of which is that nonprofits' objective is to make a difference, not make money. That said, there are some valuable lessons that can be applied to nonprofit management that can translate into a more efficient, stable and successful organization which can have a greater impact.  At their core, nonprofits operate with two bottom lines: social impact and fiscal success. Impact may trump the bottom line, but when the two work hand in hand, it’s easier to make wider strides toward social good. Some nonprofits who run their organizations like a business have stopped using the term “nonprofit” altogether. “We have started using ‘social impact organization’ in its place,” explains Melissa Beck, ‎CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County. “I am incredibly conscious of my ‘profitability’ and hold us to being financially sustainable just as I would a business.” Others are subjected to the kind of heavy scrutiny that accompanies many nonprofit operations. "The accountability for nonprofits increases every single year," says Carlos Leija, the Chief Development Officer for Orangewood Children's Foundation. "You might hear about nonprofits in national news stories that aren’t operated well or where there might be wasteful spending. We are really truly heavily scrutinized and we should be." Over the next several months we will explore the following lessons from the business world and look at how they can be applied to nonprofits, regardless of size, shape or scope of the mission:  Lessons from the Biz World Lesson 1: Manage capital wisely  Lesson 2: Invest in good people Lesson 3: Track and measure EVERYTHING Lesson 4: Utilize branding strategies  Lesson 5: Manage your donor base like customers Lesson 6: Overhead isn't a bad thing Lesson 7: Embrace resistance Lesson 1: Manage capital wisely to ensure profitability A focus on impact over earnings is typically the main reason professionals choose to work at a nonprofit. In reality, financial resources are a big part of being able to fulfill a nonprofit’s mission, so it’s wise to take queues from for-profit businesses in regards to managing capital appropriately and ensuring steady revenue. In short, it takes money to raise the money you need to make a difference.

  • 10 min read
  • Oct 14, 2014 11:48:00 AM

The Value of Volunteering Time [INFOGRAPHIC]

Across the nation, volunteering is on the rise, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The CNCS reports that in 2011, Americans volunteered more than 7.9 billion hours of time through formal organizations, and the value of that time equates to more than $171 billion. In total, there were more than 64.5 million US citizens that volunteered their time in 2011, which is roughly 26.5% of the total US population.  In addition, 51% of US residents donated money to charity in 2011, showing that there is a pervasive culture of volunteering and donating across the US. For charitable organizations, it is important to leverage the current growth in volunteering and donating by rallying your constituents to both participate in fundraisers and increase their donations. Further, the data shows that the age of volunteers is pretty evenly spread across all age groups. As such, finding ways to reach a more diverse audience demographic can be a great way to increase participation in fundraising activities in your charitable organization.

  • 1 min read
  • Sep 18, 2014 10:00:00 AM

2014 State of the Nonprofit Sector [Slideshare]

The Nonprofit Finance Fund’s annual survey asks Nonprofits in the U.S. about their programs, financial health, and management strategies. The survey is designed to help Nonprofits, supporters, researchers, and others ask better questions, shape dialogue, and challenge their assumptions about what nonprofits need to continue their work building healthier communities. Nonprofit Sectors Represented Human Services Arts, Culture, Humanities Education Community Development Health Mutual, Membership Benefit Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy Environment and Animals Workforce Development Foundation House of Worship International, Foreign Affairs Over 5,000 respondents - representing a range of Nonprofit sectors from across the country - contributed to the study. We've prepared a slideshare with a snapshot of some of the most interesting data gathered from the full study, including information on the demand for programs and services, financial well-being and biggest challenges facing the Nonprofit sector.  

  • 4 min read
  • Aug 8, 2014 9:42:00 AM

Event Spotlight: How The John Crosland School Revived Donor Development with Their Annual Fundraising Gala

Any successful development officer will tell you that fundraising events are a crucial part of the donor development process. Events such as an annual gala are important for finding and connecting with donors to help set the stage for a lasting relationship that will move them toward major giving. Jennifer Nichols Director of Institutional Advancement Jennifer Nichols has more than 15 years of experience in philanthropy, marketing and public relations and is a seasoned fund developer, grant writer and program developer. Jennifer Nichols knew this when she joined on as the Director of Institutional Advancement in 2010 for The John Crosland School in Charlotte, NC. Over the course of 4 years, she has taken the school's annual "Picture This" Gala from a small, family-run event to the successful and widely recognized affair that it is today. We spoke with Jennifer get her story... What is the John Crosland School? We are a school for children with learning and attention differences like ADHD and Asperger's. Children who attend the school must have a diagnosed learning difference. The school is dually accredited and has been around for 35 years. We’ve reached 2 states, 8 counties and 21 cities. EVENT DETAILS Guests: 190 Tickets: $135/each Parents: $100/each Live Auction Items: 16 Silent Auction Items: 68 WINSPIRE EXPERIENCES   Winspire Experiences Sold: 13 Total Raised from Experiences: $17,400   TOTALS   Event Revenue: $172,320 Event Cost: ($84,518) Total Raised: $87,802 Why do you fundraise? We get no federal or state funding. Tuition covers roughly 84-86% of our operating budget each year and the rest is philanthropic. Individual giving takes care of the other 15%, which covers in-house reduced tuition (scholarships), development of new facilities and overall expansion. Two-thirds of our kids come from public school and a lot of those families have a difficult time paying. They raid retirement funds, sell homes – some families even move in from out of state - so philanthropy for us is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. We are dependent on fundraising, and knowing that we realize relationship building [with donors] must be very strong; because it’s not always coming from these families, it’s coming from outside in the community as people understand why we’re here and what community need we fulfill. That’s part of the reason our annual gala is so important. Tell us a little about your event, the “Picture This” Fundraising Gala. The gala has gone on for 22 years, but it had always been in the hands of the families. It was really considered a family night event. When I arrived 4 years ago, I changed it and made into a philanthropic event for reaching donors outside the school. We still have family festivals that are part of our philanthropic package, but they are smaller more focused fundraisers just among the families and extended group. We do this in-house where we put forth a goal – this year we bought an activity bus – so families are still connected to the philanthropic goals and the mission of the school. For the annual Gala, we really needed a donor event where we could do donor prospecting. Large fundraising events are a wonderful opportunity to bring our donors and donor prospects into the room and talk about where we are in terms of our mission, where we are in terms of our vision, and give them updates so that they are truly insiders. This year we did a pretty good job of getting donors in the room, but it’s just the beginning. We’re in the process of developing some extra efforts that we want to do starting in October – we have big plans the end of the year and beyond with regard to our donors. What sort of extra efforts? One thing that seems to be a struggle for a lot of smaller Nonprofits - or Nonprofits that have not been great at fundraising – is the development of a solid donor base. That’s one of the main reasons I came to this school, was because they didn’t really have one. They had some annual help among the parents, some help from a few grandparents and families of former students, but they had no real donor base. They had never really done any marketing or - what I would consider true fundraising efforts - certainly not philanthropic efforts. They were lacking advancement efforts - truly considering the holistic package for how to move the school forward. So that was what I came into. I had done projects like this before – I just knew there was going to be a lot of work involved. Knowing that, we just had to come together and agree on certain fundamental principles. What did the Gala look like 4 years ago compared to today?

  • 18 min read
  • Jul 10, 2014 10:30:00 AM

Part 3: How to Distribute a Press Release for Your Fundraising Event

In part 3 of this series we talk about methods for distribution. When you’re done writing your press release, look it over from an outsiders perspective. Does it pique your interest? Would you want to know more about the event or the cause? When you feel confident with the release, you have several options for distributing it to local media outlets. Press Release Series We developed this mini-series to guide you through the process of writing effective media releases to promote your charity auction fundraising event. Part 1:  Why Press Releases Are Important Part 2:  How to Write a Press Release Part 3:  How to Distribute a Press Release Build Relationships with Media Contacts One of the best ways to ensure your press release gets picked up is to cultivate relationships with media contacts. Just like with potential donors, spend some time well before the actual solicitation - in this case prior to sending press releases - building a relationship with the right people at the news outlets in your community. Try to identify the editors and reporters who would be most interested in what you have to say. It starts with a simple phone call or hand written letter – not an email – introducing yourself and the organization you work for. Position yourself as an expert on whatever topic your Nonprofit mission is centered around and simply offer yourself as a resource.  Whether your Nonprofit helps foster children or manages environmental projects, explain your mission and let them know you are always willing to offer a perspective. Follow up with these people every month or two just to check in and see how they’re doing. These days, hand written letters – especially for print media folks who tend to be a little more old school – can go a long way. During this courtship (yep – that’s what you’re doing!), don’t forget to personally invite them to any events you have, big or small, regardless of whether you are trying to get publicity. How do you get their contact information? Sometimes all it takes is a name. You can usually find this on an organization’s website or in the publication itself. Once you have a name, you can send letters or call the front desk and talk your way through. Another way to get through is to contact the sales department who can usually point you in the right direction.

  • 8 min read
  • May 16, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Write a Press Release for Your Fundraising Event [EXAMPLE]

Click Here to Enlarge This is an actual press release we did for one of our Nonprofit clients. Although it takes place post-event, it still serves as a good example to illustrate some of the components discussed below.

  • 7 min read
  • May 14, 2014 12:37:00 PM

Part 1: Why Press Releases Are Important for Your Fundraising Event

Press releases are an excellent and inexpensive tool for Nonprofits trying to increase awareness and attract more supporters to a charity auction event. Press Release Series We developed this mini-series to guide you through the process of writing effective media releases to promote your charity auction fundraising event. Part 1:  Why Press Releases Are Important Part 2:  How to Write a Press Release Part 3:  How to Distribute a Press Release What is a Press Release? Press releases are an official statement issued to newspapers and media outlets providing information on a newsworthy announcement, event or issue. They serve as an initial outline for journalists to develop a potential story for TV, print or the Internet.

  • 4 min read
  • May 12, 2014 12:00:00 PM

How Nonprofits Should Reach Millennials [INFOGRAPHIC]

Click Here to view infographic → Millennials are a tough bunch to appeal to. Born between the early 80's and late 90’s, this hyper-connected group spends most of their day consuming media and has a higher tendency to multitask – meaning they’re more easily distracted.

  • 5 min read
  • Apr 8, 2014 9:47:00 AM

The 16 Most Fascinating Nonprofit Statistics We Could Find [INFOGRAPHIC]

Click Here to view infographic → Statistics are wonderful. They are a great way to identify trends and get an overall sense of how things are going in a particular industry. When it comes to the Nonprofit sector, it's important to stay on top of trends that could ultimately contribute to your organization's bottom line. Whether it's identifying Nonprofits Communication Trends for 2014 or understanding the growing mobile fundraising movement, statistics can help you anticipate the future needs for your Nonprofit. For this reason, we were happy to stumble on a great Slideshare presentation from Steve MacLaughlin, Director of the Idea Lab at Blackbaud, who gathered 50 facts about Nonprofits in the United States today. We looked through and compiled what we thought were 16 of the most interesting facts about the Nonprofit Industry and put them in the following infographic. Enjoy!

  • 4 min read
  • Mar 7, 2014 11:27:00 AM

The Nonprofit Sector in Brief [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Nonprofit Sector in Brief infographic summarizes and expands on The Nonprofit Almanac 2012/2013 prepared by the National Center for Charitable Statistics and published by the Urban Institute Press. Both publications highlight the growth in the number and finances of 501(c)(3) public charities, as well as key findings on private charitable contributions and volunteering. It presents trends from 2000 to 2010 but special attention is paid to 2008 through 2010 to see the impact the recession had on the Nonprofit sector and nonprofit auction items. Click Here to view infographic >

  • 4 min read
  • Feb 17, 2014 10:03:00 AM

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