It takes many moving parts to get a Nonprofit Organization up and running (and to keep it running!). Included on this list of integral parts is a Board of Directors. Appointing board members for a nonprofit is a non-negotiable requirement for operation of the organization. Although it is not difficult to assemble a group of bodies, there should be a level of thoughtfulness that goes into the selection process.
How do you decide which individuals should comprise the board of directors? How many members should it include? What qualifications should you be looking out for? Although there is no one right answer to this scenario, there are some key points that should be taken into consideration.
Diverse Backgrounds of Experience
Assembling a diverse group of individuals, with varying degrees of experience, is an important strategy when appointing a board of directors. Members of the board do not need to specialize in the same industry as your nonprofit is operating within. It is more beneficial to seek out members with diverse professional backgrounds, that differ from both you and others involved in the organization. You may want to consider what skills and/or knowledge are lacking and seek out members to round out those areas.
Keep in mind that candidates with managerial expertise, former executives and business gurus who have learned how to grow companies are invaluable, even if they lack knowledge of your specific industry. The same goes for retired legal attorneys, former human resources experts or marketing professionals.
Also consider mixing up the ages of your members. Older members will have more field and life experience, but younger generations will bring a fresh perspective. The world is constantly changing the rules of business. Marketing and fundraising were vastly different 10-15 years ago than they are now. Younger generations will (most likely) have more experience with social media platforms and building an online presence.
Diverse! Diverse! Diverse!
Although boards won’t be meeting everyday (or even every week), it is crucial to fill these spots with members who will work together to achieve a common goal. They must collectively have the best interest of the organization in mind, while also being flexible enough to bend to the opinions of the other members. You don’t want to end up with stale mates during decision making processes and you don’t want to have any members who are so strong minded that they either overpower the collective and/or drive others away.
Teamwork will be especially important when appointing a diverse board (as you should). With many different backgrounds and areas of experience merging together, there will need to be cohesion between varying opinions and ideas.
Vision and Mission Statements
Another key point to keep in mind when compiling your board of directors, is to ensure that members are aligned with the vision and mission statements of your nonprofit organization. Be clear about the role that your board of directors will need to play within the organization and do so up front. Setting board expectations before assembling the actual board, will help to ensure that selected members will be set up to achieve said expectations. This will help to weed out any candidates who may be thinking that sitting on a board is a stagnant position. Incomers will understand that they must be active in aiding the organization to achieve goals and remain aligned with the vision and mission statements.
Quality Over Quantity
Having too many “cooks in the kitchen” is usually not a good thing. Although you don’t want your board to be too small, you also don’t want it to feel too stuffed. Choosing quality members, with professional expertise and a commitment to the organization, is much better than having a larger group with possible dead weight.
Having said that, there is a minimum requirement of board members that nonprofit organizations have to reach. This minimum depends on the corporate law of the state where the nonprofit was incorporated, but the average number is three.
Additional Tip: Try staggering the terms of your board members. This way, as seats are turned over and new members are onboarding, it will only happen one member at a time. Experienced members will be able to help new members get acquainted.
A Board of Directors is much like the government of a Nonprofit Organization. They brainstorm ideas, vote on high priority issues and decisions and they should collectively work with the best interests of the organization in mind. The board should contain members of diverse professional backgrounds with varying degrees of skill, whom are capable of effective teamwork and have good ethics.
When it comes to emergency situations, the best plan of attack is to be well prepared. Having a solid emergency plan for your business is critical for the safety of employees and customers alike. Emergency procedures should be outlined and communicated to employees well ahead of any potential danger or emergency situation. These procedures should cover both communication between office personnel (in order to minimize chaos during an emergency), as well as evacuation instructions (in order to efficiently vacate the building). It is recommended that your office have an appointed Office Safety Manager, as well as an alternate, in the event that the safety manager is absent. Office Safety Manager can assign specific tasks to other employees (such as grabbing the emergency supply kit, holding doors open for other employees or pulling the fire alarm).
Some key elements in your office emergency plan should include: a PDF document overviewing the office safety procedures (distributed to all employees upon hiring), action checklists to follow during an emergency procedure, as well as a monthly checklist for office safety equipment and supplies.
Let’s look at these categories a little further…
Office Safety Procedures
Upon hiring new employees, each person should receive a PDF overviewing Office Safety Procedures as a part of their new hire entry packet. This document should include a written description of the office emergency plan, outlining procedures for communication as well as evacuation. You may also want to include some or all of the following elements:
• Map of office building (to include locations of emergency exits)
• Location of fire alarm(s)
• Location and quantity of fire extinguishers in the building
• Location of smoke detectors
• Location of first aid kit + office emergency supply kit
• List of (up to date) emergency contact information for each employee and for management/board members– highlight the office safety manager and the alternate
• List of local emergency resources/services and contact information
• Location of rendezvous point to meet after possible building evacuation
Action Emergency Plan Checklist – Evacuation
Clear communication and effective teamwork can lessen potential damage during the onset of an emergency situation. It is paramount to prepare your employees and provide them with a clear plan of action to follow during an emergency. The following checklist can be added to or altered for your specific needs but provides a structure and sequence of steps to follow during an emergency:
• Office Safety Manager to verbally call out situationally appropriate directions during an emergency (directions for a fire will be different than for an earthquake, etc)
• Office Safety Manager (or designated employee) to pull fire alarm (when appropriate)
• Office Safety Manager (or designated employee) to grab emergency supply kit (to include first aid kit) – if able to do so safely and quickly
• All employees to file out of cubicles or office rooms, heading towards closest emergency exits (keep eyes open for fellow employees who may be injured or need help)
• Lightly touch doorknobs before opening, to ensure they aren’t hot from possible fire (when appropriate)
• Ensure to use staircases instead of elevators
• When in doubt, safety of employees and customers is the priority – do not try to find a fire extinguisher to put out a fire, just evacuate the building (unless evacuation is somehow impossible)
• Employees to gather at designated rendezvous point after building evacuation
Once employees have been cleared of the building or moved to safety:
• Office Safety Manager (or designated employee) to take roll call – ensure no one is missing
• Office Safety Manager (or designated employee) to call 911 or appropriate emergency resources
• Office Safety Manager (or designated employee) to assess any possible injuries
• Office Safety Manager (or designated employee) to use contact sheet to contact management or board members who may not be on site, to update them on the current situation
Every office should be prepared with appropriate safety equipment and supplies. The Office Safety Manager should run through a checklist monthly, in order to ensure safety equipment in working order and supplies are in stock. Every month, check the following:
• Fire extinguishers should be in working order, not expired and present in appropriate locations (noted on office map)
• Smoke Detectors have working batteries and are in working order
• Portable defibrillator is charged (in case of cardiac arrest)
• Emergency exit signs are visible and exit passageways are clear of boxes, furniture, etc.
• Safety Training Overview on a quarterly basis (as well as upon hiring new employees)
• First aid kits (with standard medical supplies) are up to date and fully stocked
• Fire blankets are present
• Emergency supply kit is fully stocked and elements are not expired – you can visit http://www.ready.gov/kit to find an overview of a Basic Disaster Supply Kit
The most important part of an office emergency plan is to keep it simple and efficient. Ensure employees are prepared far ahead of any danger and that safety training is revisited on a quarterly basis. The more comfortable officer personnel are with an emergency plan, the more likely that plan is to be executed effectively, efficiently, safely and quickly.
By appointing an Office Safety Manager and designated employees with tasks, you can ensure that the team is working together to get everyone out of harms way. Having clearly defined roles will help to keep everyone is their zone and lessen the possibility of panic.
A well-defined, well-understood and well-practiced office emergency plan is key to risk management and effective emergency management in the workplace.
Does your nonprofit organization reimburse employees or volunteers on the regular? If so, expense reporting may be a sizeable part of your operations. Without a good system for reporting expenses, this process can easily become jumbled and time consuming. It might even leave you with an unwelcomed headache. Don’t worry though, we have some tips to help your nonprofit tighten up this process and create efficiency for expense reporting and reimbursements. Let’s go over a few things…
CREATE CLEAR GUIDELINES
In order to move through this process efficiently, right out of the gates, it is important to have a clear set of guidelines for all of your personnel to follow. An informative PDF with a rundown of expense reporting would be useful to your operations. This PDF should include some key points, which are aimed to clear up questions before they arise and cut down on the time it takes to complete the full process. These key points include the following but feel free to add anything else that feels relevant to your organization:
• A list of expenses that are acceptable for reimbursement
• The reimbursement rate for mileage (driving)
• The form(s) that should be used for expense reporting
• What to do if a receipt is lost?
• Deadlines for expense reporting
• Instructions on filling out forms and/or digitizing the completed forms and receipts
ENFORCE DEADLINES // DON’T PROCRASINATE
When information is fresh in our brains, it is much easier to report without making any mistakes or forgetting where you stashed your receipts. Having clearly defined deadlines for expense reporting is a key tool in keeping your personnel on track. If expenses are not submitted within the established timeframe, employees and volunteers should understand that they will not be reimbursed past this deadline. This will keep everyone sharp and on their toes, keeping all parties involved on track.
CAREFULLY CRAFT DETAILED FORMS
The process of submitting expenses should be fully streamlined, in order to achieve maximum efficiency. Crafting a form for employees or volunteers to fill out and submit, will create cohesion. Lined paper scribbled on with chicken scratch writing at the end of a long workday just won’t cut it. Messy submissions also make the reimbursements more complicated to process and leave a margin for error. So, carefully craft detailed forms for you personnel to fill out when reporting expenses and make sure the form is easily accessible. In general, the form should include: date that the expense was occurred (should match the date of the expense receipt), the reason for the expense spending, the total dollar amount of the expense, the name of the employee or volunteer to whom the reimbursement should be paid and the date that the form was filled out. Depending on your operations, you may also want to include a space for employee and manager signatures and any other internal needs for processing the form (form #, etc). Lastly, make sure that your form includes detailed instructions on how to fill out and submit.
USE TECHNOLOGY // DIGITIZE PROCESSES
In today’s world, there is an application for just about everything. Explore automated solutions that would allow you to upload forms and receipts into a digital portal, creating a quick and easy process for personnel to follow. Digitizing would make expense reporting easier and more efficient from beginning to end. No more crumbled receipts, coffee stained forms or illegible writing. Even without exploring applications, you can include instructions in your detailed form for employees and volunteers to scan receipts into a PDF and send them in along with a scanned reimbursement form. You may also want to give instructions on how an employee should title their form and/ or how an administrative employee should name or rename when filing the report. This will keep digital files orderly and easy to access.
There you have it! Some easy steps to follow that will make your organization a little more organized and your accountant a little happier! All good, all around. Happy expense reporting!!
Whether you’re working from home, running a family household, juggling a job and going to school at the same time, running multiple businesses or just can’t seem to find enough time in the day…it’s all too common to feel like you’re carrying a weight on your shoulders. Modern day life can be overwhelming, to say the least. Tasks seem to stack up quicker than breakfast joint pancakes. Luckily, there are ways to manage! In comes…the TO-DO list. The catch all of your unresolved tasks and projects. The invisible shoulder to cry on when you’re feeling like you don’t know where to start.
Not every approach to list making is effective…if you just write it down and forget about it, spill coffee on it and then accidentally throw it out, write it on a current page of your calendar planner but flip the page next week and leave the unresolved list behind…let’s just say there are some missteps that can stand in your way of productivity. Although not everyone works in the same way, we’ve got some tips for effective list making that are sure to help the average Joe or Jane. Let’s take a look…
Make A List
Okay Okay…this is a pretty obvious place to start but why do lists help? This is an important psychological step to calming your mind. Having all of your tasks floating around in your head contributes largely to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Once you are able to extract them from your cluttered mind and transfer them to a physical list, you can start to focus your attention on completing them, rather than just thinking about them.
The most important part of this step is to make a list that works for YOU. Some will prefer an old school pen and paper method (cute notebook, planner, scrap paper, post-it notes??), others will do better with a digital version (I-Notes, note taking apps, etc) or maybe you’re the type who likes a dry erase board next to your desk.
Personally, I have multiple lists locations. I use a white board marker on my bathroom mirror, so that I am reminded every morning of tasks that I can easily complete that day (there’s something ever so satisfying about erasing as the day goes on). Additionally, I am also an old school pen and paper loving kinda list maker. I carry my little notebook around in my bag, so that I can add to my list whenever I think of something in my head (we all know this can happen at the most random times and if not written down immediately, the idea is likely to slip away again, to return at another unknown time!).
Keep It Updated
It’s important to stay active with your list. Keep it updated by crossing off items that have been completed and adding new items as they come up. Having access to your list when you are out and about will be helpful for this tip, so try to carry your notebook or planner along with you or if you choose a digital version, make sure it is accessible from your phone.
As the days or weeks go on, it is also helpful to evolve your list. Once you have crossed off a good chunk of items, transfer the remaining items to a new list and continue to add to that. This makes the most sense with handwritten lists, as they can get messy as you cross off and jam new items onto the paper.
Roll The Ball With Small Stuff
When you stare at a long list of TO-DOs with nothing checked off, it can feel a little like there’s no end. That’s okay because we can quickly jump over that hurdle by starting with some small and easily achievable tasks. Maybe one of your TO-DOs is to wash the dishes (which you estimate will take 10 minutes), this can be a great place to start. It may seem like something you don’t really need to write on your list, as you will see the dishes in your sink and remember that you need to handle that BUT adding even the smallest of tasks will allow you to cross them off. If you can cross off a handful of short tasks within, say 30 minutes or so, you will start to feel the joys of progress and your motivation to tackle the more time-consuming tasks will increase!
Identify Your Top Priorities
Small tasks are perfect for building up your motivation and feeding your productivity but they aren’t always the most important line items. Every morning try to identify at least 3 of your top priority tasks. Is it tax season? Have you been putting off your bookkeeping? You don’t want to have a false sense of productivity by only checking off small stuff but continuing to avoid the big stuff. A good strategy here is to put some stars next to your high priority tasks. Make sure you are crossing off starred items on a daily or at least regular basis (depending on the length of your list, your schedule and timelines for completion).
It’s normal to procrastinate some of the big stuff. Another strategy that I like to use, is to add upcoming tasks (such as tax prep) to my TO-DO list very far in advance to the deadline that I wish to complete them by. This allows me to procrastinate them, without putting them out of my mind. I know that I won’t forget because it is accounted for but I also know that I have time to put it off…which for some reason feels relieving. By the time this big task becomes top priority, as deadline is approaching, I feel more ready to tackle it, as I have been writing it down on a continuous stream of TO-DOs for months and mentally preparing myself to get it done when the time is right.
Having a list is helpful, we’ve established that. Yet, what if you don’t save yourself the time to actually tackle the list? This can be problematic and renders the list mostly ineffective. In order to avoid this, make sure you plan ahead. Whether you have a set 9-5 job or your working hours are more sporadic, choose some time slots that you can spend crossing items off your list. Maybe 30 minutes when you wake up in the morning is a good time to tackle some of the small stuff, to get the ball rolling. Perhaps you can take a lunch break to handle a top priority item and maybe the evening is a good time to check off one or a few more things. Everyone’s schedule is different but if you plan accordingly, you can even set yourself a timer. Whether it’s a 10-minute timer to tidy up your house or a 30-minute timer to work on a more time-consuming task, it will help to keep your mind focused on productivity and allow less distractions to veer you off course.
Life can be overwhelming but the most important tip I have for you is to stay calm. No matter how expansive your list is or how busy your life is, you will always be more equipped to handle the load when you are cool, calm and collected.
Charitable contributions of all kinds are no doubt the backbone of nonprofit functionality. Can’t go wrong with free stuff, right? Right. Although, the flip side of these contributions definitely involves some extra bookkeeping. As a nonprofit organization you’re required to record and report both cash donations, as well as in-kind donations.
What is an in-kind contribution? The answer is fairly simple, an in-kind contribution is a non-cash gift to a nonprofit. These include the donation of goods, services and even time – that can be used to support the organizations cause. This tidbit will be important in determining whether or not to record certain in-kind donations. Let’s get into a little more detail about the different categories or types of in-kind donations.
Categories Of In-Kind Donations
Goods AKA Tangible Assets The first type of in-kind donation is arguably the easiest to identify and to record. Donated goods include any type of physical product or supply that you can hold physically touch or hold. These include clothing, food, office supplies, furniture, cars, appliances, equipment, books and more. Items can be new, used or loaned and an organization can choose to utilize the goods or resell them for cash.
Goods are typically the easiest to record because there are many comparisons available when determining the Fair Market Value. For example, if a brand-new appliance was donated, you can check local retailers pricing on the same appliance to reference a Fair Market Value for the item. Similarly, if a used appliance was donated, you can cross reference the value of the used item on a platform such as eBay or Amazon.
What if an item is donated to an organization only to be resold for cash value? For example, a car is donated, and the organization resells this car in a charity auction, for cash. In this instance, the Fair Market value of the item would be determined by the resell price, as opposed to the original selling price of that item.
Furthermore, goods that are unusable shouldn’t be recognized or recorded. This can include expired or rotten foods, clothing damaged beyond wear-ability and outdated vouchers or tickets.
Intangible Assets This type of in-kind contribution refers to any non-physical item of value donated to the organization, such as advertising, trademarks, royalties, patents and stocks.
Long-Lived Assets Many nonprofit organizations also receive free or discounted use of office space, buildings, vehicles, equipment, utilities or other long-lived assets. These types of contributions must be donated by the legal owner of the property.
Services In-kind contributions in the form of services are only important if they enhance non-financial assets or they are services that would have otherwise been purchased. Essentially, in-kind services include those that would help the organization directly or indirectly support its cause. These contributions can be donated by individuals, businesses, corporations, institutions and organizations. Some examples of in-kind services include landscaping, babysitting, accounting, legal, event planning, catering and publishing.
It is only required to recognize and record the services that either create or improve a non-financial asset or that would have otherwise been purchased by the organization. For example,
When determining the Fair Market Value of donated services, you will multiple the going hourly rate for the service by the number of hours donated.
When are you exempt from recording In-Kind Donations?
Volunteer Services General volunteers, who do not possess any special skills, licenses or certificates related to the work that they are providing, should not be recorded as In-Kind donors. For example, if a lawyer reviews legal documents for free, then this would need to be recorded. If that same lawyer volunteers to hand out water bottles at a charity fundraiser, then that is just good old volunteer services off the books!
Services That Would Have Gone Unpurchased If a company decides to donate services to your organization, that would not otherwise be purchased, then you do not need to record this. For example, if a professional organizing company offers to organize your office space for free, but you had not planned to spend that money or hire anyone to do this work (before their offer) then this is just volunteer work. On the other hand, if an event planning company offers to help plan a fundraising event, that you would have otherwise hired someone to plan, this should be recorded as an In-Kind contribution.
Just Passing Through If your organization serves as a type of middle-man, perhaps for donations, then you need not record items that are just passing through. For example, if someone donates a bunch of childrens’ clothes and specifies the desired shelter or program where these clothes are to end up, this would count as just passing through.
Taxes…just this single word alone is enough to make most people cringe. Why is that? Well, more often than not, that pesky little personality trait that we like to call PROCRASTINATION is the culprit. Yes, paying taxes isn’t fun financially but let’s be honest…the payment itself is not as stressful as the never-ending tasks of bookkeeping, organizing and filing. Well friends, we are here to help.
Good Ole Ben Frank had the right idea when he said that “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” With that in mind, the best way to start preparing for your next tax filing, is to start now! 2019 tax season has JUST come to a close. It should still be fresh in your mind. Let’s use that fresh experience and get set up for a smooth and easy 2020 tax season with these 5 ways you can prepare for next year’s tax filing, NOW!
1. Have A System In Place
Not all tax organization systems are created equal. What works for one person may not work for you. Whether you like to use the old-school receipts in a shoebox and a handwritten spread sheet method or have downloaded some fancy apps on your smartphone or computer….evaluate the system that you used this past year and decide if it should be replaced for this upcoming year.
A successful organization system will help to keep you from procrastinating your bookkeeping. The longer you put off filing receipts and/or checking them alongside your bank statements, the less memory you have regarding the purchases of those receipts. As your memory fades and as the receipts pile up, the process of keeping track becomes more stressful and time-consuming, once you actually sit down to chip away at it. Don’t let yourself get to that point! Set up a system that works for you, so that you can stay on top of it from the start of the season.
2. Check In With Your CPA
Many people choose to be in contact with their accountant only during the tax filing window and once the current year has been wrapped up, they drop off in communication until the next year. This can lead to last minute questions come April and may delay your tax completion. Staying on the same page as your CPA will only help with the smoothness of your tax process. Fill them in on your current system, check with them to see if they have suggestions and set yourself up for success. If you aren’t happy with your current accountant, this is also the perfect time to shop around for a better fit.
3. Evaluate Strategies For Tax Cuts
Feeling like you paid way too much in taxes this year? Now is the perfect time to set up a plan for reducing your payment next time around. This is a great topic of conversation to include in your check in with your CPA, who may have some suggestions for you. Perhaps this is a good year to purchase a car (small business owners will receive a tax cut for this) or to invest in some business equipment. Look to increase your write-offs. Look into re-evaluating your retirement plan or your investments. Waiting until the tax season has come to a close, doesn’t leave you any time to formulate a plan for tax cuts or more efficient uses of your money. Evaluate now!
4. Plan For Tax Payments
Did you opt for one singular payment at the end of the year? Did it feel too large? Want to break it up? If you are self-employed or have income that doesn’t have taxes withheld from it during the course of the year, you may want to consider paying quarterly. This will take some of the pain out of the end of year payment. It will also help to keep you stabilized and focused on maintaining your tax organization system year-round.
Having a bank account specifically designated to put money aside for tax payments, can be a helpful tool for saving. This will prevent payments from sneaking up on you and ensure that you aren’t over-spending any untaxed income that may come in throughout the year.
5. Create An Account on IRS.gov
While many people will wait until tax season to attempt navigation of the IRS.gov website, this is the time when the site is overwhelmed with traffic. The IRS website is a great resource for downloading current and past tax information, specific documents and tax refund tools. Create an account now (if you don’t already have one), to get yourself set up. Try to attain anything you may need or want from the site, months before tax season makes it into full swing.
There are many benefits to having a hefty savings account, but we all know it can be hard to get there. In today’s consumerist society, the temptation to overspend lurks around every corner. New smartphones, fast fashion clothing stores that put out new items every week, expensive lattés and Postmates delivered dinners all seem to be more important in the moment, than throwing that hard-earned money into a savings account. Essentially, our wants disguise themselves as needs and the urge to buy buy buy takes over.
The journey to saving money may seem overwhelming but with just a few habitual adjustments, you’ll be there in no time. Check out these tips & tricks to grow that savings account and move towards days of greater financial freedom…
1. Make a Budget
It’s difficult to arrive at your destination, if you don’t know where you’re going. A budget is basically a map for your money saving journey. Get your spreadsheet on and create your own personal budget, based on each of the expenses that you HAVE to pay every month (think rent, bills and essential groceries). Include the income that you have coming in and compare your monthly income with your expenses. Do a little math and this will leave you with the amount of “extra” money that you earn every month, or your surplus. At first, it may be very little, but as you continue on your money saving journey, this number should grow.
2. Pay Down Debt
Debt is often a huge roadblock when it comes to saving money. Many people have to choose between the two, until debt is under control or paid off all together. A popular strategy for paying off debt is the snowball method, where you pay off your debts in order from largest to smallest.
3. Cook More Food at Home
Ordering meals for delivery/pick-up and dining out at restaurants should be a special occasion for someone who is trying to save money. The additional fees for a single meal (tip, tax, service fees, delivery fees, increased price on foods) will start to add up and dig into your budget. Strategically planning out your week’s worth of food and sticking to a grocery list will ultimately save you money. This may require you to do some meal prepping at the beginning of the week but your bank account will thank you.
4. Borrowing Over Buying
Need a fancy dress for ONE occasion? Need a power tool for ONE project? Need anything that would be a one time or temporary use in your life? Consider putting a post up on social media or calling around to friends, to see if you can borrow the item you need, instead of buying it brand new.
5. Thrift Shopping
Many of us know that if you buy a brand new car, the value depreciates as you drive it off the lot. That doesn’t make it any less useful though, right? This concept is true for most things. Consider thrift shopping and second hand when you need new clothes, furniture or many other things. It feels good to give something a second life, it’s more sustainable for the planet and it’s more friendly for your bank account.
Need something fixed around the house? Did you rip an item of clothing and need it sewed? Need your oil changed? Learning some basic skills to do things yourself, will save you money on using an outside hire. Sure, a handyman may be necessary for larger projects, but most people would be surprised what they can accomplish on their own, if only they took the time to learn and apply themselves.
7. Delegate A Monthly Max for Non-Essential Purchases
Having a set amount for non-essential purchases should help you to stay on budget for the rest of the month. Similar to those who have strict diets, with one cheat day per week. Looking forward to your non-essential purchases will keep you on track and help you cut down or eliminate impulse purchases. This is a strategy to help separate and control the wants verses needs.
8. Use Surplus Money Wisely
Many people who receive bonuses from work, tax return money or other types of surplus funds will often spend this money on non-essential purchases. They will get excited and plan an expensive vacation or go on a shopping spree. This money could be better spent by paying off debts or putting this money into savings. Even if you only save a portion of this money, it would be more advantageous than not saving any of it.
9. Save Money Automatically
A good method for saving money, that requires very little effort, is to set up your bank account for an automatic transfer of funds to your savings account each month. It can be just a small amount, even $25. Similarly, you can set up your direct deposit to send 10% of your paycheck to savings.
10. Cut Down Your Monthly Payments
When is the last time you checked how many subscriptions you’re paying for each month? How expensive is your cable bill and can you cancel cable all together and replace it with streaming services? Can you cut down the data on your cell phone bill? Would it be cheaper if you switched insurance providers? Sit down and analyze your monthly payments and look for ways that you can cut them down. It may seem tedious, but you are likely to shave off some money that can be moved to savings.
The ultimate strategy for developing money saving habits is to control your impulse purchasing and become a minimalist. Have a plan (budget) and follow the steps to achieve your savings goals. Once you start to see results, it will feel rewarding and encourage you to continue onwards. You may start to find even more ways to save money, along the way!!
From a young age, most of us are taught the importance of the “Thank You” note. For every birthday party ever…opening the gifts is the most exciting part of the day, right? Yet, we know Mom is probably writing down every person’s name and the gift that they contributed, so she can later hand us that information along with some blank cards. After which, we can procrastinate filling them out until our next birthday starts to come around the bend. Sound familiar?
Well, a donor acknowledgement letter is more than just a thank you but the sentiment is still there. Anytime your nonprofit organization receives a donation, it’s important to extend this gesture of gratitude. No matter how large or small the contribution, the thank you is of equal importance. However, with any donation larger than $250, the IRS requires your organization to provide a formal acknowledgement letter to the donor. These letters allow donors to provide proof of donation for their own tax purposes and must be mailed or emailed to them by January 31st of each year.
Just as Mom may have required that you not only say thank you in your note but also that you mention the exact gift they contributed to your awesome birthday party – the IRS requires that your donor acknowledgement letters include some specifics:
Names – Then name of the donor and the full, legal name of your organization.
Date – The date that the gift was received by your nonprofit. If one donor has made multiple contributions to your organization within the same tax year, you must provide donor acknowledgment letters for each donation separately. You cannot combine contributions.
Tax-Exempt Status and EIN – A statement declaring your organization’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, including your EIN (Employment Identification Number).
Amount or Description – A clear monetary amount or a description of a non-cash gift. For non-cash gifts, it is not necessary to assign a cash value, just include a description of what was donated.
Exchanges – If your organization exchanged any goods/services for the provided donation (such as an event ticket, a t-shirt, etc) you must note this in your letter, along with an estimate of the fair market value. If the donor did not receive anything in exchange for their donation, you should state that instead.
In addition to the acknowledgement of their donation to your organization, you can also use this opportunity to reengage these donors by outlining current and future goals. Individuals who have already contributed to your organization once, are likely to be interested in doing so again. You can use the second half of this letter as an outreach and distribution of information for any future fundraising missions or events. Re-iterate your mission statement as a nonprofit organization and lean into the opportunity of possibly sparking a continued system of support from your donors.
Fundraising is truly the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations, who are likely to receive the majority of their income from charitable donations. For as long as a nonprofit hopes to exist, fundraising must remain a perpetual priority. This can seem daunting, like a never-ending carrot hanging from a stick scenario. Yes, fundraising is a massive undertaking BUT it doesn’t have to be daunting. Like with many other things in life, having a well thought out and detailed game plan can set organizations up for lasting success.
At a loss with how to map out a fundraising plan of attack?
Let’s look at some crucial steps:
2. Clearly Define Fundraising Goals
3. Put Together An Execution Team
4. Identify Target Donors
5. Create A Campaign Plan
6. Thank Supporters
Everything seems just a little simpler when there is a trail of breadcrumbs to follow, yeah? Okay, get out there and do it! Kidding…let’s break these steps down a little more.
This step is hugely important for nonprofits who seek to raise money. Before campaigning or soliciting any donations from supporters, organizations much first register with the state government in which they’re operating. An organization must be registered in each individual state, where they plan to raise funds. Furthermore, if the organization hires an outside fundraising consultant, they too must register with the state.
Registration may be a step that doesn’t need to happen for every campaign, if the step was already completed. However, it should always be on the check list, just to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and everything is up to code.
Clearly Define Fundraising Goals
Having an ultimate goal in mind will help to keep an execution team on track and focused on the end game. So, the first step in a well thought out game plan should be to clearly define a fundraising campaign goal (a goal number to reach). Even further, what is the organization’s overall fundraising goal for the next year? The next two years? Or even the next five years? The more information that is clearly outlined and recorded, the more numbers will be available for reference (which can be helpful in future fundraising goals – remember that each campaign may be separate, but they are all connected to the organization’s overall goals).
A clear goal number should also be intentionally tied in with the organization’s overall mission statement. This is because a fundraising goal should not only reflect a monetary number (how much money is needed to achieve the organization’s goal fundraising number) but should also reflect the intended use of this money (how the money will contribute to the organization’s overall mission). Most donors will choose to contribute to an organization based off of their mission statement, as donors like to know that their money is going towards a mission that they believe in.
Put Together An Execution Team
All fundraising campaigns should have their own special task force. Although campaigns can often be large enough that the entire team, and additional volunteers, will be needed on fundraising event days (for example), it is still important to appoint an execution team to manage the campaign in all of the surrounding days. Campaigns involve a lot of moving parts and it is best to have a leader or a small group of leaders, to keep track of important steps in the planning process and beyond.
The execution team should be taking charge on:
• Defining the fundraising goal number + how the money will be used to support the organization’s mission statement
• Promoting the fundraiser and ensuring the goals are expressed to target donors, in a way that relates goals back to the organization’s mission statement
• Brainstorming + executing methods of promotion for the fundraising campaign
• Planning + organizing fundraising-specific events
• Assigning staff + training and assigning volunteers for fundraising specific tasks/events
• Managing the funds received + ensuring they are used to support the overall mission
• Recording successes and failures of fundraising campaigns + keeping track of numbers, in order to compare to past and future fundraising campaigns
• Using recorded data to measure the fundraiser’s performance
• Looking for ways to continuously improve the fundraising process of the organization
If there is not an individual or group of individuals skilled enough to take lead on the execution team, organizations also have the option of an outside hire. A fundraising specialist (if within the budget or if the specialist is willing to donate time) can be brought in to help achieve goals.
Identify Target Donors
In order to most efficiently promote a fundraising campaign, it is important to clearly identify a target market. Are there specific demographics, neighborhoods, communities or groups of people that will be approached for contributions? Are there companies, organizations or individuals who have been large or frequent donors in the past, who should be included on the prospect list for this current campaign? Organizations may want to use staff, board members and volunteers to compile a full list of target donors.
This completed list will guide the promotional direction of the fundraising campaign. There are many different fundraising avenues for a successful campaign – direct mail, in-kind donations, sponsorships, crowdfunding, special events…just to name a few. No matter which method(s) planned to be used for an organization’s campaign, a prospect list of donors will define exactly who to target for funds. Honing in on this list can help all of an organization’s efforts to be channeled towards a target market of the most likely donors – keeping efforts from being “wasted” on less likely donors.
Create A Campaign Plan
A campaign plan should clearly outline the selected method(s) that an organization will use to raise money. There are a wide range of tactics that may be used during a fundraising campaign. For best results, it is recommended to incorporate a variety of approaches, in order to reach a larger population. The possible methods include:
• Direct Mail – An old faithful! This tactic dates back to the pre-internet days of fundraising (obviously) but it still stands as a cost-effective, low-labor and worthy method of spreading an organization’s word. Send out letters to your prospect list but make sure to include information about how recipients can donate online (rather than returning the snail mail).
• Online – This includes donations that may be made through an organization’s website, through a crowdfunding site (ex: Go Fund Me) or through other platforms, such as social media. This method draws the most donations because it reaches the most people and provides a simple and accessible means for those people to contribute their donations. Even if they hear about the cause through word of mouth or through direct mail, they are still likely to hop onto the world wide web to make their donation. The internet also allows for monthly giving programs to be set up. Monthly giving programs raise money through recurring donations from those donors that support the cause with such great enthusiasm, that they are willing to contribute every month.
• Mobile Phones – Similar to direct mail but a little more current, organizations can send out a mass text message to their prospect list, with a link to donate. Calling possible donors to speak directly over the phone or leave a voice message about the cause is also an option, although much more time consuming. An organization may also create an app with donation collecting capabilities.
• Solicitation – Another method that has stood the test of time is an in-person approach. Solicitating to possible donors (within the target audience) is also a time-consuming option but can help to reach donors outside of the prospect list. Organizations should be strategic about location choice for this method. For example, if the organization is raising money for animal shelters (or any animal-related causes), it would be strategic to place a few volunteers outside of a pet food/supply store.
• Events – Holding fundraising events can help to boost donor giving, while also raising further awareness for an organization’s cause. Think silent auctions, marathons, charity dinners, craft shows and more. It is up to the organization to be creative with this option because there are many possible routes to take.
• Corporate Partnerships – There are many businesses who are interested in partnering with non-profits, in order to fulfil a philanthropic avenue for their company. Companies may choose to donate money, in-kind donations, encourage employees to donate time (volunteer) or they may be willing to sponsor or be otherwise involved in a fundraising event.
Once an execution team as decided on the methods that will be used for the fundraising campaign, the next step to completing the campaign plan is to decide how the campaign will be promoted. Essentially, how will word get out to the people of the prospect list and (hopefully) beyond. How will the campaign be marketed to ensure best results? Many of the same platforms used for raising the actual funds, can and should be utilized to market the campaign.
Last, but definitely not least, is to send out a huge thank you to all of the generous donors who chose to support the cause. This step is not only required by the IRS, as donors will need to receive information for their tax-deductible contribution, but it is also a wonderful way to keep in contact with supporters, further strengthening those relationships. Fostering these relationships can alleviate efforts in future fundraising campaigns and can help to secure recurring donations. Donors are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations and should be treated as such.
A code of ethics is an important aspect for all businesses to integrate into their system of operations, but it is especially important for nonprofit organizations. As nonprofits are so strongly supported by charitable contributions, exposing themselves to the risk that fraud (and other internal unethical practices) can bring about, could have detrimental consequences. The last thing that a nonprofit needs is to be featured in news coverage because an executive was siphoning funds, in order to take an extra vacation or drive a fancy sports car. Donors can be off put by such findings, so much so that they withhold further contributions.
Usually, wrongdoing doesn’t start with a full display of breaking the rules. More often than not, it starts with bending them. So how can organizations take precautions in order to prevent such wrongdoing? Implementing a strong code of ethics can help to reduce the likelihood of internal unethical practices. A code of ethics should clearly state an organization’s core values and will help implement a system of accountability for staff, board members and volunteers.
Let’s think of it like this – if you are walking down the street and holding a piece of trash in your hand, but there are no trash cans nearby, does the thought cross your mind to litter? It could be that easy, just drop it and walk away. Who would know? Who would care? Okay now…think about this same scenario, except this time there are numerous signs in your path, all exclaiming the unethical nature of littering. These signs are clear and apparent and basically, they’re all up in your face. Does that thought about the convenience of littering still have that same temptation? Or is it lessoned? Maybe, the signs also tell you the location of the nearest trash can. The littering signs (and the guidance to a trash can) act as a system of accountability, which encourages patrons to do the right thing, while also letting them know that someone does in fact care.
Inspiration for writing a code of ethics can be drawn from those of other likeminded organizations. It can be as long or as short as necessary to translate values, as well as how they relate to and support a nonprofit’s mission.
Once a code of ethics has been established for an organization, it is important to share this code with staff, board members, volunteers, donors and to the entire community. These values can be shared on an organization’s website, incorporated into employee handbooks and pasted across other types of materials, including marketing materials. Maybe it’s even included at the bottom of every email signature from within the company. It stands as a constant reminder for the standards that an organization holds itself too.
Although a code of ethics is not a fool proof system to prevent fraud or unethical practices, it certainly asks as a system of risk management. A code of ethics, coupled with a constant embodiment and display of this code, can help to create an environment where good choices are celebrated. When fraudulent behavior is being called out, the temptation to move forward with unethical decisions is lessoned because there is an obvious display of internal monitoring. This not only helps to attract the right type of people to work for an organization, but it also gives donors a deepened sense of security and trust for the organization itself. A strong code of ethics, overall, shows ongoing commitment to an organization’s core values.