Tuesday, December 4, 2012

5 Fundraising Lessons from the Obama Campaign

Did you know that the Obama campaign had an advisory group of unpaid academics whose research and expertise in psychology and behavioral science were used to aid the cause? Or that Obama's quirky fundraising emails raised ten times more online than their biggest SuperPAC?

Seems like nonprofits could learn a trick or two from this past election:

Lesson #1: Subject lines in emails make a difference. Campaign strategists found that a casual, familiar tone worked best - including mild profanity (such as "hell yeah"). They also did constant analysis of what raised money and what didn't. Their most successful subject line? Simply the word "hey." I'm not suggesting you use these exact words, but it's definitely worth your while to pay more attention to the wording of subject lines. And consider doing regular analysis of which fundraising emails raise the most money.

Lesson #2: Make your pitch personal. The campaign found that just identifying someone as a voter made it more likely that he/she would actually vote - because people want to be consistent with what they have done in the past. So be sure to do your own research before you contact donors, and acknowledge their previous support.

Lesson #3: Have people sign a pledge card. Research shows that people are much more likely to follow through if they have made a simple written commitment to do so. This made a difference for Obama's voting numbers, and my own experience confirms that these research results apply to donations as well.

Lesson #4: Ask them when and how they will contribute. I did some phone calling for the Obama campaign, and we were instructed to ask people when and where they would vote. One of the campaign's many emails said, "People do things when they make plans to do them; what's your plan?" Turns out making even a simple plan increases the odds that someone will follow through, whether it's voting for the President or making a charitable contribution.

Lesson #5: Use peer pressure. Psychologists have confirmed that people like to conform to standard behaviors. One well-known study showed that when hotel guests were told that a majority of guests reuse their towels (rather than putting the focus on environmental value), there was a 29% increase in reuse. So - consider organizing house parties where the hosts announce their contribution to your cause and ask others to join them.

New York Times science writer Benedict Carey quotes psychologist and Obama advisor Dr. Craig Fox as saying "little things can make a difference" in people's behavior. The Obama campaign used these little insights successfully - and so can you and your nonprofit organization.

P.S. You can listen to the NPR podcast about Obama's email campaign at: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/elections/campaign-trail/science-behind-obamas-fundraising-emails

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Debunking Five Top Fundraising Myths

When it comes to fundraising, it can be hard to sort out fact from fiction. And these surprisingly self-sustaining and false assumptions can act as a barrier to effective fundraising for nonprofit boards and staff. So here are five common myths - and why they are incorrect:

  • Myth: The best way to raise money is to write grants.
  • Fact: Only 14% of charitable dollars comes from grants. And in our current economic climate, grants from foundations and government agencies have experienced the most profound decreases. The vast majority of donations (73%) comes from individuals. If you include bequests in this amount, the total goes up to 80%.
  • Myth: The easiest way to fund your nonprofit is to organize a fundraising event.
  • Fact: On average, for every dollar you raise through an event, you will have spent $1.30 - especially if you count all your staff and volunteer time. Fundraisers can be a great way to increase public awareness about your work, engage board members in fundraising, identify new donors, and build relationships with current donors. But they are massively labor-intensive, making them one of the least efficient ways to raise actual dollars.
  • Myth: There's a shortage of money for nonprofits.
  • Fact: Americans historically have been very generous. Indeed, 65% donate to one or more nonprofit causes, and the average amount donated per family per year is a surprising $2,213. Total charitable giving for 2011 was $347 billion (a 7.5% increase over 2010).
  • Myth: There is so much competition for donor dollars that people won't give.
  • Fact: Board members and staff often believe that with so many nonprofits asking all the time they cannot possibly compete. Yet statistics show that the average American contributes to 5-15 organizations annually. Raising money for your cause is not a competition. If you do your work well and make your case effectively, those who care will donate to your agency.
  • Myth: In a bad economy, people stop giving.
  • Fact: History shows that even during deep recessions, Americans have continued to give. This current recession rates as one of our worst, and charitable giving has indeed been affected, but it is beginning to bounce back. There are certainly individuals who have cut back completely, and donors are definitely prioritizing as well as looking more carefully at the impact of their gifts. Yet, overall, Americans have not stopped making charitable contributions since the economy crashed in 2008.

Don't let false assumptions get in the way of raising the money you need to do your nonprofit work. Understanding the real facts about charitable giving is an important first step toward getting your board and staff motivated as you embark on this season's fundraising campaigns.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why You Make Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

How many stupid mistakes have you made in the past month? Have you ever made the same mistake more than once? Join the crowd! Here are some insights into human error plus some strategies to avoid them that were inspired by a fascinating book called Why We Make Mistakes by Joseph T. Hallinan:
  • Terrible typos: We've all made them, kicked ourselves, and attributed them to simple carelessness. But it turns out the explanation is way more complex. We don't actually read every word in every sentence; we skim using our long-honed familiarity with patterns and cues. Ergo - overlooked mistakes and typos are incredibly commonplace.
  • Hasty emails: Have you ever pressed "send" and immediately regretted doing so? Our work world has become busier and more complicated by the minute, with tremendous pressure for increased productivity and instant communication.
  • Multi-tasking failures: Multi-tasking is a word taken from the computer world, describing the way computers can divide up work into numerous processes. But our brains just don't work that way. Turns out we really cannot divide our attention between two conscious activities, or make two decisions at the same time. In fact, when we are switching attention back and forth, we often forget what we were doing. A study of Microsoft workers showed that it took at least 15 minutes to re-focus on the work at hand after checking emails.
  • Forgetting names: You may be relieved to know that forgetting names is not necessarily a function of the aging process. Everyone forgets or confuses names because names per se don't hold much meaning. People are more likely to remember someone's job than their name.
Here are some strategies to help you minimize mistakes:
  • Make a checklist: Don't expect to remember everything. Take time to make detailed checklists - and use them! Airline pilots and doctors have used this simple tool with great success.
  • Slow down: It's not easy to do in our modern world, but try to resist the urge to go at break-neck speed - and the myth that you can effectively do more than one job well at one time.
  • Ask for help: Have one - or two - other people proofread important documents, letters, and emails. All of you will miss some errors, but hopefully not the same ones.
  • Watch your language: Emails can be treacherous, because the only thing you are using to convey your message is the naked word. Be mindful of this.
  • Get a good night's sleep: It sounds obvious, but studies show that well-rested people make fewer mistakes.
  • Be happy: Studies also show that happy people make fewer mistakes.
This was one of my father's favorite sayings: Experience is when you make a mistake the second time and you recognize it. Even with the best of intentions and all these tools, and no matter hard you try, you will still make mistakes. Learn to laugh about it, move on, and go back to work.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gender, Geography and Generosity

Did you ever wonder how your community's giving compares to other areas? Do you feel certain that rich people - especially men - are more generous? Would you guess that Democrats give more than Republicans? Two new reports provide some thought-provoking and surprising data about the role gender and geography play in charitable donations.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy's fascinating new report, it turns out rich folks and Democrats don't necessarily give more money. And geography does matter:
  • Rich folks who live in affluent communities donate a smaller share of their income than those who live in economically mixed areas.
  • Red states are seemingly more generous - the top eight states in annual giving voted for McCain in 2008, while the lowest seven supported Obama.
  • Religious affiliation strongly affects giving patterns - the most generous states are Utah and Idaho (where Mormons are expected to tithe at least 10% of their income), and the remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.
  • But when contributions to religious institutions are removed from the equation, the geography of giving changes substantially - New York vaults from a pitiful 17 up to second place while Pennsylvania jumps from 40th to fourth.
This report documents giving patterns in every state and city in the nation, based on IRS records of people who itemize deductions. Here are some statistics from places near you. The first figure is the  median donation, the second represents the region's median discretionary income (funds available after basic living expenses are paid), and the third is the median percentage of discretionary income donated:
  • U.S.: $2,654 -- $54,783 -- 4.7%
  • California: $2,306 -- $54,000 - 4.4%
  • San Francisco: $2,180 -- $56,596 -- 3.9%
  • Sonoma County:$1,809 -- $54,304 -- 3.5%
  • Petaluma: $1,752 -- $57,580 -- 3%
  • Santa Rosa: $1,9717 -- $53,684 -- 3.6%
  • Marin County: $2,769 -- $56,585 -- 4.9%
  • San Rafael: $2,600 -- $63,620 -- 4.1%
  • Point Reyes Station: $3,166 -- $54,931 -- 5.8%
I'm pleased and proud to see that my hometown of Point Reyes Station tops the charts in percentage of giving - despite being one of the lowest income communities in Marin County. You can look up your community at http://philanthropy.com/section/How-America-Gives/621/

As to gender, according to a recent study by the Women's Philanthropy Institute, women age 50 and older give more than men - much more:
  • Women at every giving level donate a bigger share of their income and they donate in larger amounts.
  • In the highest bracket, women donate sums that are two times more than men at a similar level - for every $100 given by affluent men, women gave $256.
The moral of this story is: don't make assumptions about who will give and who will not. Your best prospect isn't necessarily the successful, well-to-do, older, upper class male who lives in an affluent community - it could be the woman from the Boomer Generation who lives right next door.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Write Communiqués That Get Read

Like many of you, I get lots of mail and email from nonprofit organizations - and it is extraordinary how much of it is poorly written and constructed. Here are some important tips for making your written materials more compelling and readable:

  • Create a catchy subject: Use no more than ten words. Pose a question to get people thinking. Use numbers, especially odd ones - odd numbers seem more definitive, and numbers draw your reader's eye. Use colons or hyphens.
  • Focus on your first and last paragraphs: These are things people are most likely to read, so make your case here powerful and understandable (in case your reader fails to read anything else). In a letter, be sure to use a P.S. to stress your most important point.
  • Make it brief: Minimize text. Use short sentences, short paragraphs, short letters. Short makes it easy for people to scan, which is what most folks do in these very busy times.
  • Use visual images: A great photo or video can often convey your message better than words. People especially like photos of themselves, people and places that they know, cute children, and puppies (kittens work well too).
  • Use bullets: People won't read a long paragraph of information but they will look at bullets or numbered lists. This is a great way to highlight recent program achievements.
  • Format your text well: Use bold, italics, and color for emphasis, and choose an easily readable font. If you're sending something out via email or posting on your website, be sure to choose a common font that translates well into different browsers (i.e. Arial or Helvetica).
  • Tell a story: Highlight your important work with a short story about a client who has benefitted or a program and the impact it has had.
  • Hone your talking points: Take the time with your staff and board to brainstorm the best way to communicate what you do. Find words and phrases that are powerful and meaningful.
  • Punctuation and grammar count: I don't think I'm alone in feeling that bad punctuation and grammar are an indication of a poorly run organization.
  • Always proofread: Don't depend solely on spell-check; there are so many ways it can go wrong. And be sure to have another person review what you've written. It's amazing how often a glaring error gets missed, particularly in a document you've been working on for a long time.

P.S. Save time by always saving what you write so you can cut-and-paste liberally for use in future letters and newsletters.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Top Ten Time Management Tips

Are you feeling overworked and overwhelmed? Does it seem like you are getting buried under an avalanche of email, phone messages, and deadlines? Here are a few tips to help you organize your time more effectively:

1) Use a to-do list: This can be a handwritten list or a list on your computer desktop. It doesn't matter which method you use - but it does matter that you actually review and update the list at the beginning of every work day. And be sure to break bigger projects down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

2) Set priorities each day: Mark the most important items by underlining or using bold type or any other symbol you like. This doesn't mean you have to work on these first; I actually recommend putting a couple of simple, easy chores on your list that you can cross off quickly. It helps to start the day with a sense of accomplishment.

3) Resist procrastination: Once you've emptied the trash or made the easy phone call, take a deep breath and go to work. "I'll get to it later" is not a good mantra.

4) Track deadlines systematically: Use ICal or Outlook to keep up with important dates for grant applications, reports, events, meetings, and regular tasks. Set your program to send an email reminder, so you don't have to lie awake nights worrying that you missed a deadline.

5) Manage your communications: Designate the first half hour of your day for emails and phone messages. Answer those that can be dealt with quickly; prioritize the rest and put them on your to-do list. Then get to work - and unless you are expecting something crucial - stop checking your email.

6) Minimize interruptions: Use voice mail to screen calls and allow for unimpeded work time. Schedule phone meetings. Define times in the day when you are available and when you are not. Don't answer the phone if you really don't have time to talk. Learn to say no gently and gracefully.

7) Take time to communicate personally with co-workers, donors, volunteers, and clients. There is no substitution for actual, real-time personal interaction for strengthening and sustaining your organizational work. Plus it's a good idea to take your eyes off the computer screen every once in awhile.

8) Leave contingency time in every day: The unpredictable happens. You can't prepare yourself for surprises or glitches, but you can leave some extra time to deal with them.

9) Take breaks: Get up. Stretch. Take a short walk around the block. Eat lunch (preferably not at your desk). You'll feel better and work better.

10) Reward yourself: Don't forget to reward yourself when you complete a big project, submit that grant application, or finish making your fundraising calls.

Face it - your nonprofit work will never be done. There will always be programs to manage, problems to solve, and more money to raise. So breathe, take it easy on yourself - and be sure to use that to-do list.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Wide Weird World of Tax-Exempt Status

What do the National Football League, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, and your local church have in common? They are all classified by the IRS as tax-exempt organizations under federal tax codes.

This means that the NFL, like all organizations in the 501(c) category, is exempt from federal income tax (and under state status from property taxes). The league, a designated 501(c)(6), describes itself as a "trade association promoting the interests of its 32 member clubs." I'm sure you'll be thrilled to know that the NFL commissioner's 2009 salary was $11,544,000 - which gives new meaning to the word "nonprofit." Rest assured, however, that the NFL teams themselves aren't tax-exempt.

Your classic 501(c)(3) is defined by the IRS as "religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, to foster national or international sports competition, or prevention of cruelty to children or animals organizations." In order to qualify for this category, your agency must be formed and operated specifically for these stated purposes, none of your earnings can go to enrich your grandmother, you are prohibited from campaign activity to support or oppose political candidates, and influencing legislation cannot be a "substantial" part of your activities.

Some of your favorite (and not so favorite) government agencies have established nonprofit conglomerates in order to raise money they no longer receive through the federal budget. The CDC, NASA, and FDA all have them - and FEMA has an application in process. The CIA's foundation, In-Q-Tel, had 2010 revenues totaling $56.4 million. This raises an interesting question about the ethics of forming foundations that compete with nonprofits that have historically partnered with government in delivering services - and the ramifications of shifting funding for these services away from government.

This tax-exempt category has one big plus: donations to 501(c)3) organizations are tax-deductible. That's why the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) insists it deserves its 501(c)(3) status - despite the fact that the New York Times has called it "a conservative nonprofit that acts as a stealth lobbyist."

Note that 501(c)(4) status - which includes affiliate organizations funneling money directly to super PACS - doesn't get your donors a tax deduction. It does allow lobbying that is germane to the organization's purpose (while prohibiting direct or indirect involvement in political campaigns) - but this cannot be the organization's primary activity. The big plus here is that campaign donors can remain anonymous; public disclosure of donors to 501(c) organizations is not required.  By the way, the Tea Party of Dayton Ohio recently applied for 501(c)(4) status but withdrew its application in a huff, claiming political harassment, after the IRS started asking probing questions about what it really does.

For your entertainment purposes, check out these 27 other 501(c) categories: labor and horticultural organizations, business leagues (here's where you find the NFL), social and recreation clubs, civic leagues (the category for Crossroads GPS as well as Obama's Priorities USA), fraternal beneficiary societies, benevolent life insurance associations, teachers' retirement fund associations, state-chartered credit unions, mutual insurance companies, employee funded pension trusts, military organizations, black lung benefit trusts, and  state-sponsored organizations prodding health cover for high-risk individuals and workers' compensation. 

And here are my two personal favorites: trusts with multiple parents and cemetery companies. Don't you just love the IRS?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

More Jokes for Fundraisers

A year ago, I wrote a blog post featuring my favorite fundraising jokes. Little did I know that this would become my most popular post! Here are a few more, in honor of April Fool's Day:

     A doctor, a lawyer, and a fundraiser arrive at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter tells them they each get one wish before entering Heaven. The doctor asks for a million dollars, St. Peter grants the wish, and the doctor enters Heaven. This generosity did not go unnoticed by the lawyer, who proceeds to ask for a billion dollars. St. Peter grants his wish, and the lawyer enters Heaven.
     Then St. Peter asks the fundraiser what she would like. She quickly replies, "If it's not too much trouble, could I please get the business cards of the two people who entered heaven just ahead of me?"

     A local United Way office realized that they had never received a donation from the town's successful lawyer. Their development director called to persuade him to contribute.
     "Our research shows that out of a yearly income of $500,000, you donate not a penny to charity. Wouldn't you like to give back to the community in some way?"
     The lawyer mulled this over for a moment and replied, "First, did your research also show that my mother is dying after a long illness, and has medical bills?"
     Embarrassed, the United Way representative mumbled, "Um...no."
     The lawyer interrupted, "Or that my brother, a disabled veteran, is blind and confined to a wheelchair?Or that my sister's husband died in a traffic accident, leaving her penniless with three children?"
     The humiliated United Way representative, completely beaten, said simply, "I had no idea..."
     On a roll, the lawyer cut him off again. "So if I don't give any money to them, why should I give any to you?"

     Four ladies from their synagogue's fundraising committee are driving home one Sunday afternoon when they are involved in a terrible car crash. Unfortunately, none of them survive. When they arrive at the Pearly Gates, they are kept waiting to get into Heaven because the angel at the Gates can't find them listed in the book of new heavenly arrivals.
     "I'm sorry," he says to them, "but I can't find you in the book." So he sends them down to Hell.
      A week later, God visits the Pearly Gates and says to the angel, "Where are those nice Jewish ladies who were supposed to be here by now?"
     "You mean the fundraisers? I didn't see them listed, so I sent them down to Hell," replies the angel.
     "You did what?" God says. "I wanted them here. If you don't want to join them, you'd better call Satan and get them transferred back here right away."
     So the angel phones Satan and says, "Satan, you know those Jewish ladies I sent you last week? Well, we really need them up here. Could you please send them back?"
     "Sorry, I can't oblige," Satan replies, "they've been down here only one week and already they've raised $100,000 for an air conditioning system."

Have any good fundraising jokes of you own? I'd love to add them to my collection. Post your joke in the comment section, or email it to cjay@horizoncable.com.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reflections on the Susan Komen Saga: Lessons for Nonprofits

Like so many others, I've been glued to the computer screen following the ups and downs of the Susan Komen saga. To recap, the controversy centers on the decision by Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to cut its support for Planned Parenthood's breast screening exams for low-income folks.

Komen spokespeople stated that the decision was based on a new rule prohibiting funding for any group under government investigation. Yet news reports established that other groups being investigated were not defunded and that the decision was driven by anti-abortion stances from board and staff members. The foundation ultimately reversed itself after massive public outcry, most of it fueled through social media sources.

Like the United Way scandals of the mid-1980's, this story will reverberate for years and be the catalyst for even more public scrutiny of nonprofits. It also raises many thought-provoking questions:

  • How can nonprofits assure ethical decision-making? Numerous official statements from Komen invoked the word "mission," with the emphasis on breast cancer research alone. Here's the actual mission statement: The mission of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by advanced research, education, screening, and treatment. Ethical decision-making starts with meticulous attention to mission. According to Mollie Williams, a Komen official who resigned in protest, "I believe it would be a mistake for any organization to bow to political pressure and compromise its mission." I agree wholeheartedly.
  • What is the role of the board in policy making?  It is the board's legal responsibility to further the work of a nonprofit as stated in its mission, provide prudent management for long-term sustainability, represent their constituency effectively, and supervise the work of the executive staff. Board members from Komen with personal anti-abortion stances - or driven by fears that Komen would lose support of key anti-abortion donors - not only ignored their mission and failed to oversee staff properly; they chose to give priority to their own political opinions over the welfare and needs of their clients.
  • How can charitable organizations communicate effectively when things go wrong? Komen officials hemmed, hawed, dodged questions - and effectively lied about what happened. But, particularly in this age of intense public scrutiny through social media, this just won't work. The very best thing to do when mistakes are made is to immediately acknowledge your errors, apologize, and present a plan to move forward in a positive manner.

Here's my favorite take on the situation (with a shout-out to Jesse Taylor, who posted it on the Huff Post): "From now on, going on a two-day bender and then trying to make it up to everyone after will be called pulling a Komen." And the moral of this story is - know your mission and be true to it, maintain prudent board oversight of policy and staff, and don't pull a Komen.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Simple Tools for Finding In-kind Donations

Looking for new office furniture? Desperate to upgrade your software? Need art supplies for your children's activities? Hoping to spruce up your landscaping? Trying to cut costs from your annual budget? Here are some simple, practical suggestions for finding donations that are either free or very inexpensive:
  • Post a wish list: This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to solicit in-kind donations. Simply post a list of all the things you need on your website, newsletter, and printed brochures. You might be surprised at what you get - folks often recycle items that are perfectly workable and practically new. Be specific about your needs, and find a way to thank people while gently and kindly declining donations that do not fit your specifications.
  • Check out Tech Soup: This nonprofit offers free and/or discounted technology products and information to other nonprofits. This includes articles, blogs, and free webinars as well as more than 400 products from donor partners including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec:  http://home.techsoup.org/pages/default.aspx
  • Register with Good360: Good360 donates new products like office furniture to nonprofit agencies from the corporations that manufacture them. First you register, then search for the products you need - or you can submit a wish list. Just note that you will be required to pay any shipping costs:  http://good360.org/
  • Sign up with Ireuse: Ireuse is another online resource, this one offering used office furniture for free to registered nonprofits. The furniture comes from for-profit businesses that are upgrading:  http://www.ireuse.com/site/
  • Post on Craigslist: Search to see if the item you need is available through Craigslist. Or you can post your own specific request at no charge. Make sure to provide contact information and a link to your website so folks know who you are and what you do:  http://sfbay.craigslist.org/
  • Ask at your local Thrift Store: Often, small local thrift stores will keep an eye out for specific merchandise for community-based nonprofits - and give them to you for free or for a discounted price. This is an especially good resource for art and craft supplies.
  • Build relationships with local businesses: Shop locally - and once or twice a year, ask those businesses to give back to you with a specified in-kind donation. If you are a membership organization, this can a way for them to join. Be sure to acknowledge these donations publicly through your website, member lists, and newsletters.
Just a couple of final notes: send formal thank-you letters when you receive in-kind donations, and be sure to include the total value of in-kind donations in your annual fiscal reports.These strategies can help build donor relationships and financial sustainability.  Good luck, and happy shopping!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Navigating Nonprofit Budgets

Do your eyes glass over when fiscal reports are reviewed? Do the numbers seem impenetrable? Are you afraid to ask questions for fear of looking stupid? You are not alone; it's a common condition for nonprofit board and staff members who are much more comfortable discussing programs than budgets. Yet it is your professional obligation as staff - and your legal responsibility as a board member - to exercise prudent financial oversight of your nonprofit organization.

Here are some basic but important questions you should be asking about your agency's budget:

  • How does it compare to last year? Look for significant changes in both revenue and expenses (either up or down). Find out whether these changes are situational, or indicative of trends for the future.
  • Does it match up with your current projected budget? Check to see if you are meeting your targets and if not, ask why.
  • Are revenue projections realistic? You need to know whether the revenue indicated in your budget represents funds already committed, funds pending, or pie-in-the-sky hopefulness.
  • Have you budgeted for facility and/or technology maintenance and upgrade? It is essential to plan for ongoing maintenance and upgrade for both technology (computers, phones, copy machines, websites) and facility - or you can be hit with big unexpected expenses.
  • Are you facing any significant changes in either revenue or expense within the next 1-3 years? Do you have any time-limited grants that are providing basic funding for core programs, operating expenses, or staff? Will any long-time staff be leaving in the near future? Don't wait until the last minute to plan and budget for big transitions.
  • Are salaries and benefits in line with similar organizations in your area? If they are too high, funders and donors will be unhappy. If they are too low, you may have difficulty maintaining competent staff, and you could be faced with significant upgrade costs when there is a staff turnover. Take the time to do your research; the Northern California Nonprofit Compensation and Benefit Survey is a great resource: http://www.ncg.org/s_ncg/doc.asp?CID=11346&DID=46405
  • Are your fundraisers really raising funds? Too often, nonprofits fail to do accurate accounting of annual fundraisers. Don't hang onto a long-time fundraising event out of either nostalgia or inertia. Look at a detailed budget for each fundraiser that includes costs for staff time and facility expenses as well as direct expenses.

Make sure that your agency fiscal reports are presented transparently, in layman's language that everyone can understand. This should include a narrative report as well as spread sheets that include the most recently completed fiscal year, a current to-date accounting, and the current year's projected budget. Find a format that works for you and your board, insist on sufficient time ask all the questions you need answered, and don't be afraid to ask them.