May 31

Show Me The Money

Okay, if you have been following me for a while, you may get the impression that I compare starting and sustaining a nonprofit to being in a relationship (and sometimes not a very good one). Well, the truth is that just as with any relationship, the “love”  has to cultivated (smile).  “Love” as it pertains to what I am saying in this post refers to “the development of your organization”.  Nonprofits are started all over the place. But the truth is that most people grow tired of their new nonprofit pretty quickly. This is likely because the “money did not come” as easily as they thought that it would.  So, you have the determination letter and you hit the ground running (so you think) trying to find money to support your cause… and it does not work.  If this sounds like you, chances are that you are going about it the wrong way.  I am often surprised at how many new and under-developed nonprofits think that they will be awarded a million dollar grant day one after receiving their nonprofit status.  Truth is that this is certainly NOT going to happen.

Best practice is to start with your funding plan (after the other necessary ducks or in a row), and based on your plan, financially develop your organization using the most appropriate approach.

Most new nonprofits assume that grants are the only way to go. Nevertheless, the key to becoming fully funded (particularly at start-up) is to diversify your funding efforts.  To learn more about what I mean by diversifying your funding efforts,  and to gain access to some of the most popular grant search engines and nonprofit funding agencies,  check  out my book “Show Me The Money: The quick reference guide to funding your nonprofit”, available in Kindle and hardcopy format.

Apr 01

A For-Profit State of Mind

money mindset

 

In addition to coaching and consulting for nonprofits, I am founder of the Wellness Revealed Project.  The Wellness Revealed Project like Perfecting Wellness, LLC: Nonprofit  Coaching & Consulting is under the umbrella of Ty Boone Enterprises.  An important concept that I promote in the Wellness Revealed Project is the importance of mindset in growth. Although the Wellness Revealed Project (found at www.tyboonenterprises.com) focuses more on mindset as it relates to the 6 dimensions of wellness (social, emotional, physical, financial, intellectual, and spiritual);  I find it interesting that businesses, particularly nonprofit businesses are in great need of a mindset change as it relates to financial sustainability.

While nonprofits desire to increase their services and improve their outreach  the vast majority of them likely have less than 30 days of cash on hand. This usually results from having an ineffective funding plan or no funding plan at all, relying too heavily on one source of support while not diversifying funding strategies, or having leadership that does not fully understand the processes involved in identifying and obtaining adequate funding.

Prior to the current state of the economy, it was somewhat “acceptable” for nonprofits to think with a not-for-profit attitude as it relates to their services and the manner in which they received funds.  However, with the current state of the economy, it is important to realize that in order to sustain, nonprofits must employ some of the financial principals that are used to create successful for-profit businesses.  In the same manner that you would be reluctant to patronize a for-profit business that does not “appear” to be functioning well, donors and funding agencies are reluctant to fund organizations that cannot hold its ground. For example, poor record keeping, cloudy mission statements, questionable budgets, poorly designed programs and initiatives.

In the past, nonprofit organizations were able to acquire grant-based funding pretty easily.  This was due to a number of reasons including the fact that government funding was more plentiful for various nonprofits, donors were more trusting that nonprofits would allocate funding as indicated, and a list of other reasons, but most importantly because nonprofit funding systems have changed over the years. While grant funding is still available, the most extensive awards are provided to organizations that understand nonprofit trends and who can articulate this understanding in funding proposals.  While at one point in time, presenting your organization as “needy” sparked donor interest, in today’s society, while there of course has to be a need for support, donors and funding agencies want to see fiscal responsibility, collaborative efforts, and action.

 

Need to learn more about how to adopt for-profit principles for non-profit success?  Enroll in my Nonprofit Success University http://www.perfectingwellnessllc.com/coaching/npo-success-university/

 

Want to learn more about diversifying your funding platform or how and where to find the best funding opportunities? Join my Show Me the Money Webinar (April 12, 2013). http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=E951D785814D31

Mar 24

The Good Foot

 

Foot

Obtaining a 501c3 status is really a “big deal” and should be taken seriously. Establishing your organization on the “good foot” (starting it the right way), can put you in the position for start-up success.

Earlier this week, I posted to my Perfecting Wellness Nonprofit Coaching and Consulting Facebook group about a new client who has gotten off to a great start. Within months of starting, this organization was able to acquire support from a major university, major corporations and donors in order to implement their very first initiative.

The truth is that being new is no excuse for “staying in start-up mode”. Many times nonprofit organizations get over the hurdle of obtaining their 501c3 status only to do nothing. Honestly, most times it is not their fault. This inability to move beyond start-up is usually due to the fact that most new nonprofits, particular when their leaders are under-experience do not quite know how to get started.

How to get started is the most important. Most new and under-experienced organizations get started on the “wrong foot”, and while there are plenty of ways to start out WRONG, one of the biggest ways is to begin “fishing” for funding before you have a clue about what you are actually doing.
Having the Determination Letter in hand for some, immediately creates a sense of “everyone will give us money”… sorry, but this is not true. The key to finding support of any kind for your organization is knowing who is “your ideal audience ”. For example, if your organization’s mission centers around providing meat to hungry children, it makes little sense to respond to RFPs (Request for Proposals) that center around encouraging children to become vegetarians. Or even worse, if you have no ideas regarding your proposed program(s), but try to develop your organization by going after any and every pot of money that you see and requesting donations from anyone with a pocket… you have certainly NOT gotten off on the “good foot”. Do you see where I am going? Many times we are so anxious to get started that we look for funds in all the wrong places. With this, we are more likely to be rejected than we are to be rewarded.

Knowing your target audience starts with realizing your mission. Your mission helps you to understand not only who you are, but who you are serving, why you are serving them, where you are serving them, and what impact will your service have on them. Once you have a complete understanding of this concept, you will be better able to attract your ideal audience and donors and funders who readily buy-in to your cause.

Want to make sure that your nonprofit gets started on the “good foot”? From formation to start-up and sustainability, my Nonprofit Success Inner Circle  is sure to put you on the path to Nonprofit Success.

http://www.perfectingwellnessllc.com/coaching/npo-success-inner-circle/

 

 

Feb 23

The Thrill Is Gone

thrill is gone

Most people who start a nonprofit do so as the result of being genuinely passionate about a specific cause or population.  The early stages of deciding to form a nonprofit resemble that of falling in love… or at least being infatuated (well… not really… but you see where I am going with this). For many, just the thought of being able to “help” a certain group of people or contribute to a certain cause produces that warm, euphoric feeling of “now I can make a difference”. Nevertheless, soon after getting started most find that the “I can make a difference” part does not happen as aggressively as they had assumed. With this the “thrill’ that was once felt when thinking about all that was about to be accomplished, is soon gone!

Truth is that a lot of work goes in to starting and sustaining a nonprofit organization. Additionally, even more work goes into starting and sustaining a “successful” nonprofit organization. Many enter into the process with the assumption that their cause is so great and so unique that everyone with a heart will be knocking their doors down to donate to them and that funding agencies will readily give them grants without a second thought.  Unfortunately, for the overwhelming majority of new and under-developed nonprofits it does not work out this way.

With this, we find that these organizations lose energy, become stagnant and eventually become discouraged to the point of dissolving their organizations. So what went wrong?  Here are 5 of the several reasons why your nonprofit has not picked up the momentum that you anticipated.

1)      Poor  or inadequate research

2)      Under-developed or unqualified leadership

3)      Unclear mission, vision, and/or goals

4)      Poor visibility

5)      Looking in all the wrong places

First and foremost, research is crucial. Of course we all get bright ideas. We all have a passion for something, but does it necessarily mean that we should start a nonprofit because it? Well… NO. Adequate research will allow you the opportunity to learn more about your “cause”, to learn whether or not your passion is truly a passion that others are also passionate about and willing to give to.  Is the problem that you are trying to solve really a problem or is it just a personal concern? Is it something that your community will buy into? Is a similar service being offered in your community, your region, your state, your service area?  If so, are these organizations doing well? If not, how can you make your services better? If so, what, if anything can you do differently?

The next one is a big one. Founders of new nonprofits, particular with zero to no real budget, usually take the leading role, at least initially. They wish to serve as President, CEO, and in whatever other capacity they can serve in.  The problem is that founders, while they are great visionaries, often have no experience in nonprofits. This is perfectly okay if they are willing to engage in continuing education, however, it is more than often the case that they try to jump right in. Unfortunately, without a clue of what to do or where to go… things go downhill fast.  Additionally, while we love our cousins, friends, friends of friends, etc., these people may not necessarily be suitable for your board.  See my previous post “A Board that Brings It” to learn more about what a qualified board should “bring”.

 

Another issue is having an unclear vision, mission, or goal. If your mission is unclear and poorly articulated, you will find it increasingly difficult to potential donors. If you do not know where you are going (vision), funding agencies will definitely not take the time to figure it out. If you need help developing or revising your Mission Statement, check out my Mighty Missions Toolkit at http://www.perfectingwellnessllc.com/products-promotions/ .

New nonprofits will not be as popular as the Girl Scouts for example… at least not initially. But if you hide, who will know that you are there? Having a presence in the community allows others to know that you exist. They are able to see that you are indeed “working” toward your cause. This helps them to see you as more credible and they will eventually “trust” you enough to give you money. While I am not going to get into it here, an online presence in this century is just as important as a physical/in-person one.

And finally… looking in all the wrong places.  For example, if your organization has a focus on purple elephants and yellow monkeys please do not respond to funding proposals seeking programs funding green tigers and pink puppies.  Funding agencies can definitely see through the “fluff”. Do not try to squeeze the square peg into the round hole.

Feb 08

A Board that “Brings It”

board table
Most states require only 3 board members on the board of directors in order to incorporate a nonprofit. Depending on the situation, it has been my experience that many new nonprofits are started by a small group of friends, colleagues, associates or even family members with a common interest.  Unfortunately, not much attention is paid to the qualifications and expertise of these individuals. Even more unfortunate is many of these organizations continue to recruit and add board members who are either under-qualified to serve as board members or who are simply not ” board material”.

Of course, starting a new nonprofit can be exciting, and if you know of others who have your same interest at heart, their willingness and eagerness to buy into your ideas give you a great sense of inspiration, prompting you to invite them to join your board. However, recruiting board members should be done just as strategically as developing your funding plan and creating your organization’s programs.

Board members are not simply appointed to fill the seats around the table in the boardroom. Board members are most effective, particularly within new and small nonprofits when they can assist in operations and perform duties that would otherwise be performed by staff members, but on a voluntary basis (in the event that staff members can not be afforded or compensated).

While it may sound  prestigious to say that you are nonprofit board member, board members have a number of responsibilities. When recruiting board members, keep mind that you will want a strong board, a board that is competent and capable of the following:

1) Governance and Policy Creation:  With this board members should not only be able to understand and articulate the mission of the organization, but to assist in the development and revisions of policies where necessary, and establish and oversee committees.

2)  Stewardship:  Board members (or at least a representative of the board) should be knowledgeable in regards to finances and fiscal responsibilities. They should be able to develop and approve budgets,  ensure financial accountability, and ensure the effective and efficient use of resources.

3)  Building:  Board members should be able to act as leaders. Board members should serve pivotal roles in strategic planning and planning for major fundraising and funding efforts. Board members should also lead by example and be willing to mentor and education new board members, assist in securing finances for the growth and development of the organization, and provide oversight and guidance as the organization works toward the achievement of specific goals and objectives.

4) Advocating:  Board members should serve as advocates as well as ambassadors for their organizations and for their cause in particular. Board members should support and protect the organization’s image, actively seek opportunities to share the mission of their organization with others.

5)  Leading in Operations:  Board members should be able to assist in recruitment and hiring of staff when necessary, review and evaluate in matters relating to compensation of staff, identify and develop programs that will aid in the growth of the organization, establish and oversee operational policies and guidelines, and and serve in the capacity of  the “court of appeals” in the event of disagreements or organizational disputes.

Now, these are just the basic requirements of a board that “brings it”.  By “bringing it”, I mean a board that is functioning as it should, a board that will be regarded as strong and competent as it relates to sustaining a successful nonprofit.

Again, while your board should definitely be diverse in its make-up and should include a mixture of backgrounds, expertise, experiences, skills, talents, and statuses (socio-economic and professional), all board members regardless of their personal or professional backgrounds should be knowledgeable and willing to operate in the above mentioned roles.

If your board members are not up to par in these areas, continuing education and board training is an absolute necessity.  If you have board members who are unwilling to serve in a manner that moves them from simply being a warm body in the boardroom to “bringing it”, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate … and even renew, revise, and restructure your board.

Jan 04

Got Money?

Money

It is usually the case that new and under-experienced nonprofit organizations experience a huge problem when they attempt to raise funding. What is this problem? The problem is that they are not receiving any money, or at at least not receiving it at rates that are comparable to the rates at which they are seeking it.

Things you should know:

1) People give money to you because you ask them to: As I have said before, money does not fall from the sky. If it did, we would all be outside right now! “You have not because you ask not!”

2) People give money because they have money to give away: OKAY, Broke people usually do not have money to spare. You may want to change your network if everyone in your network is broke. Their should NOT be more people in your network asking you for free or reduced services than those who are contributing financially to your cause!! I’m just saying… Align yourself and your organization with people who have money to give away.

3) People give money because they are in the habit of giving money: Find a frequent giver… someone who loves to give without reservation… This person will be a good choice of donor solicitation.

4) People give money because they support organizations like yours: For example, if your organization gives socks to children, find donors who have been known to give socks to children or to other organizations that provide children with clothing… etc.

5) People give money because their gifts will make a difference: Your job is to tell them what this “difference” will be. We have all seen the commercials stating that “with just $5, you can feed a child for a day”… guess what? People give whole-heartedly to organizations like this. Why? Because whether they give a little or a lot they have made a “difference” in the life of a child.

6) People give money because it will accomplish something RIGHT NOW: Again, give socks to a child today (example) is more effective than saying your donation will help prevent something that is not scheduled to happen until 3 years down the road.

…. and there are several other reasons why people give….