Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Giving Thanks: Do's & Don'ts

"Ask them, thank them; ask them again, thank them again." That in a nutshell is the essence of fundraising - and of building sustaining relationships with donors. The thanking part is equally important yet frequently given short shrift. Here are some important tips about how to do it right:

  • Thank everyone. No matter what the size of the donation - every dollar counts, every door counts. Small donors may become steady supporters, increasing their contributions incrementally over time. They may even surprise you with a really significant donation (or bequest) after they have gotten to know your organization and its work.
  • Thank your donor promptly. I cannot stress this enough - make it standard practice to respond with a thank you letter (hand-addressed and sent via first class mail) within a week of receiving every donation. Not only is this simply courtesy; nonprofits that thank their donors promptly are more likely to meet their fundraising goals.
  • Use the correct language. Include a date, the amount of the donation, language that indicates the gift is tax-deductible as allowed under tax codes, and this disclaimer: "we received a gift in cash, for which there were no goods or services provided in consideration, in whole or in part, or for which the goods and services provided were of insubstantial value."
  • Add a personal touch. Include a handwritten note of thanks. For major gifts, make a phone call to thank them personally. Invite them to become more involved as volunteers. All of these small gestures will help strengthen your relationships with donors.
  • Make sure your information is correct. Is the gift amount right? Are the names spelled accurately? If the donor has asked to be anonymous, have you noted that in your letter? Especially for letters to top donors, it's a good idea to have someone else proofread.
  • Continue to thank and communicate with your donors throughout the year. Use email, newsletters, letters, postcards, published donor lists, a thank you phone-a-thon, an annual donor appreciation event, and outreach to encourage donor participation and feedback.
  • Use the wrong salutation. Is it Jim and Jan, or Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Do your homework and make sure to get it right.
  • Treat stock gifts like cash gifts. So many organizations simply indicate the cash value of the stock, but this is not what the IRS requires from a donor. You need to state the date of transfer, amount of stock, and exact name of the stock.
  • Bother with perks for ongoing donors. My experience (and every study I've seen) shows that perks are useful for drawing in new donors, but they are not a motivator for people who are already connected and contributing.
  • Send a form letter to a major donor. Donors who make significant, thoughtful gifts expect and deserve a respectful and thoughtful personal thank you letter.
  • Forget to thank your Board: Your Board members are a key part of your fundraising team (and hopefully all donors as well). Know that even the smallest gesture of appreciation will make them feel appreciated, foster greater collaboration, and encourage ongoing financial and fundraising support.
Saying thanks is both common courtesy and good business. Be sure to do it right.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How to Establish a Basic Planned Giving Program

With all the challenges nonprofits are facing right now, starting a Planned Giving program probably hasn't been high on your list of priorities. But there are some compelling reasons - both demographic and economic - to get started:
  • Estate gifts are a great way to build operating reserves to help your organization manage during these uncertain economic times when annual gifts may fluctuate widely.
  • Baby Boomers and elders provide almost 70% of all money contributed to nonprofits. Many of these folks have already inherited significant wealth and assets from their parents (especially stocks that have appreciated significantly over time) - and many more dollars will change hands again in the next 10-20 years as people from these generations pass away.
  • 7% of all charitable gifts ($22 billion annually) comes from planned giving. 90% of these come from bequests, and bequests are the easiest form of planned gift to understand and promote.
And it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Here are some easy ways to start your Planning Giving program:
  • Use your current communications. You already have websites, enewsletters, brochures - use them to let your supporters know about planned giving options.
  • Borrow language from other organizations. The basics about ways to make planned gifts are universal.
  • Focus on simple options. Cash bequests, IRA and life insurance beneficiary designations, and gifts of appreciated stock are easy to understand and require minimal, if any, legal advice. But do look for a volunteer with financial expertise who would be willing to talk to donors and provide detailed information if necessary.
  • Open a brokerage account so you can accept gifts of stock. This is essential whether for bequests or for annual donations.
  • Develop a gift acceptance policy: Actually, IRS Form 990 specifically asks if your agency has a policy to review any "non-standards gifts", so it's prudent to have one in place. You don't need to make it up from scratch. For some good sample policies, go to:http://www.councilofnonprofits.org/nonprofit-gift-acceptance-policy
  • Ask your current and former leaders (board members, key staff, key volunteers) to make a commitment. This is an easy way to start developing a list of committed planned givers.
  • Set up a planned giving society. Give it a catchy title and list the names of folks who have arranged for planned gifts (with their permission, of course). It's an easy marketing tool that allows your nonprofit to recognize and thank donors while they're still alive as well as encourage others to join them in making a commitment.
There's no instant gratification in a planned giving program, but taking these easy basic steps now has the potential to provide substantial unrestricted support for your organization in the future.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tax Facts for Nonprofits: Some Important IRS Rules to Live By

You probably know how essential it is to thank your donors for their contributions. What you may not know is that a written acknowledgement is actually required by the IRS for any donation of $250 or more. Or that there has been a recent spate of cases in which the IRS denied tax deductions on gifts because the thank you notes did not do enough to establish the donations were purely charitable.

Here's what you need to say: "Our nonprofit is an IRS-qualified 501(c)(3) organization and your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. No goods and services were provided in exchange for your gift."

Here are a few more important IRS rules you should know about:
  • Compensation: The IRS really notices how much your board and staff are paid. Total compensation packages have to remain within reasonable limits or the IRS can impose serious excise taxes on the individual board members and managers involved.
  • Business activities: Nonprofits are prohibited from competing unfairly with for-profits. If you do so, or if you have business activities that are unrelated to your mission, you have to pay the appropriate taxes or face losing your tax-exempt status.
  • Lobbying: Direct and indirect intervention as well as participation in political campaigns supporting or opposing a candidate for public office is explicitly prohibited for 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Doing so results in automatic loss of tax-exempt status. You can advocate in support of legislation if it is clearly consistent with your mission, but be sure to proceed cautiously and carefully.
  • Governance policies: IRS Form 990 asks whether your organization has adopted a number of specific policies. There is no law that gives the agency any oversight over corporate governance. However, here's what the IRS says: "The absence of appropriate policies can lead to opportunities for excess benefit transaction, inurement, operation for non-exempt purposes, or other activities consistent with exempt status." So it is indeed prudent for your agency to have written policies in regard to conflict of interest, Executive Director compensation, gift acceptance, and documentation of Board meeting minutes.
  • Independent contractor versus employee: Many small nonprofits I work with mistakenly try to save money by designating folks who are core staff as independent contractors. Here's the basic IRS guideline: "a worker is your employee if you have the right to control not only what work will be done, but also how the worker will do it." You might get away with this. But if you're caught, the IRS will send you a hefty bill for all the employment taxes you should have been withholding and paying.
  • Surplus income: No, you cannot divide up a surplus and distribute it to staff. For-profit businesses get to share profits as they see fit. The beneficiary of a surplus in a nonprofit must be the organization itself - not an individual.
The IRS often gets a bad rap - but I have to say that if you take the time to use their online resources you will actually find them amazingly easy to navigate, comprehensive, and helpful. For more specifics on any of the above, check them out at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Debunking Seven Misconceptions About Boards

I hear a lot of questions about how best to structure nonprofit boards, along with worries about how to do it the "right" way. Here are seven common misconceptions about boards - and why they are incorrect:

There is one and only one correct model for nonprofit governance.
Fact: One model does not fit all - what your organization needs to further its mission is dependent on your organizational culture, its size and budget, and how long you've been around. And the model you need may change over time, especially in regard to relative responsibilities of board versus staff.

There is one best (and legal) size for a board of directors.
Fact: Actually, California law requires only one director plus two officers (president, secretary, treasurer). This would make you legal but not very functional. Board size typically ranges from 5 to 15; research shows that small boards think they should be bigger, and large boards think they should be smaller. Your board should fit comfortably in your meeting room, be big enough to get work done effectively, and small enough that the group can work cooperatively.

All boards should have numerous standing committees that meet monthly.
Fact: In my experience, only two permanent committees are essential: a Finance Committee charged with ongoing financial oversight and a Governance Committee responsible for the health and functioning of the board. For everything else, consider using ad hoc groups. Your board members and volunteers will feel much more motivated signing up for projects with defined goals and deadlines, rather than for a standing committee with a vague purpose and no end in sight.

A good strategy is to have lots of wealthy people on your board.
Fact: A far better strategy is to have people on your board who are committed to your organization, understand their responsibilities as board members, readily volunteer their time and skills, and not only make substantial gifts (whether that be $50 or $10,000) but also ask their friends to join them in supporting your work.

Another good strategy is to stack your board with folks who have professional expertise you can get for free.
Fact: Often, professional people have valuable skills but very little time. Consider instead asking them to participate on an ad hoc committee, or to be available to provide support via email or phone when you need it.

If things are going well, there's no need for the board to do an Executive Director performance review.
Fact: An annual review can be one of the very best tools to keep your nonprofit in running order, as well as to promote a continuing positive relationship between board and staff. Plus your board has a legal obligation to provide prudent management, which includes oversight of the Executive Director's work. Every nonprofit should schedule an annual performance review on the board calendar, and stick to it.

All boards are dysfunctional.
Fact: Boards are made up of imperfect human beings; sometimes they work well and sometimes they don't. But for every dysfunctional board out there, you'll find many more that are working successfully to provide essential community services.

So stop worrying; instead, be thoughtful, flexible and creative. Assess your board periodically re what functions and what doesn't, and establish a governance structure that truly works for your organization.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Seven Tips for Effective Emails

Email is different from other forms of communication - more casual than letters, more personal than websites, more visual than phone calls, and more frequent and single-focused than all of the above. Here are some tips for using this medium wisely in order to maximize the impact of your emails:

  1. Use a catchy subject line: Think of your subject line as a newspaper headline - it should entice folks to read more while clearly conveying your main point. It's both your first impression and your elevator pitch. And it can mean the difference between an opened email and one that gets trashed. Notice and learn from subject lines that work for you (and those that don't). Here are two that grabbed my attention: "Giving back has never looked so good" and "Take two minutes to change the world."
  2. Go casual and person: Feel free to use everyday terms, casual sentences and sentence fragments, as well as slang words. Your email should feel relaxed and informal.
  3. Keep it short (and simple): Show your readers you appreciate their time by sending emails that are concise and easy to answer. Use as few words as possible, introduce who you are, provide quick context, and tell them why you are contacting them. Be creative, be true to your unique organizational culture, but be brief.
  4. Make it mobile-friendly: More and more people are accessing their email on mobile devices only, so test yours out to make sure they work. Short subject lines are absolutely essential, as mobile devices often will only read up to 30 characters (and note that subject lines of 28-39 characters have the highest click rate according to Mail Chimp).
  5. Mind your fonts and formatting: Be sure to use common, readable fonts in appropriate sizes - Arial (12 point) and Verdana (10 point) are good choices. Make emails easy to read and quick to scan by using bullets, numbered lists, short paragraphs, and  strategic use of bold and italic. 
  6. Use visuals: One great photo, video or infographic is worth a thousand words.
  7. Drive readers to your website: You want your readers to one-click to your website to sign up for your email list, donate, and learn more about your good work. So make sure to include the URL for your website and/or blog, and make sure the links are functional.

Email is such a quick and seemingly easy method of communication; we all have a human tendency to toss them off without much thought. But if you want the folks on your email list to actually read what you've written, you need to take the time to compose subject lines and emails that capture their attention and motivate them to take action.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Reflections on the IRS "Scandal"

Turns out the big IRS "scandal" was another one of those sound-bites that dominated the news despite the fact the media (along with our elected representatives) had failed to do their homework.

Here's a list of keywords the IRS actually used to identify applicants seeking tax-exempt status that might require extra scrutiny: Tea Party, patriots, progressive, occupy, medical marijuana, foreclosure assistance, Affordable Care Act, disputed territories in the Middle Easts, Israel, and open-source software. Notice how these words span the political spectrum from right - to left.

It is in fact the job of the IRS to determine whether an organization is truly eligible for tax-exempt status. According to IRS Code section 501(c)(4), "an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community."

Direct or indirect intervention or participation in political campaigns supporting or opposing a candidate for public office is explicitly defined as not promoting social welfare. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit is completely prohibited from political activity of this kind; a 501(c)(4) is allowed to do so provided this is not the organization's primary activity. Here's the rub: up until a few days ago, nothing in the IRS code has defined the word "primary."

One of the best results of this whole brouhaha is that the IRS has now announced a clearer and more streamlined application review process. Organizations can be awarded tax-exempt status within two weeks if they certify that political campaign intervention will involve 40% or less of their spending and time. I must admit I'm skeptical the IRS will actually be able to manage the proposed timeline. And I'm still waiting to see how the IRS plans to monitor political activity over time. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Here's my favorite quote from all the articles I have read about the controversy, from Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik: "The biggest laugh line uttered in this affair is that the IRS is somehow 'harassing' these public-spirited organizations by asking them to justify their status. Here's a good rule of thumb: You don't want to get harassed by the IRS? Then don't claim a tax exemption you may not deserve."

Every one of these organizations - and the people involved with them - has a First Amendment right to freely support or oppose any political candidate of their choice. They just don't have a concomitant constitutional right to not pay taxes while doing so.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Policy or Not to Policy

I know: nonprofit policy is not exactly a sexy subject. But every organization, small or large, needs to have basic governing policies in place.

Why? Some policies are required by law, others strongly recommended by the IRS. Internal policies specific to your organization support consistent and ethical practices for your finances, governance procedures, programs, and facilities. And sometimes the fact that you can say "this is our written policy" can help you deal with challenging people and situations.

So - how can you evaluate your current policies and/or determine what new policies to have in place? Here is some important legal and tax information to guide you:
  • Legal compliance: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has two provisions that are applicable to nonprofits: a prohibition against destruction of documents tied to a criminal investigation and a prohibition of retaliation against whistleblowers. This means you are required by law to have policies on document retention as well as treatment of whistleblowers.
  • Tax compliance: IRS Form 990 (which is required of every California nonprofit, no matter what size) asks whether your organization has adopted a number of specific policies. These are not mandated - there is no law that gives the agency any oversight over corporate governance. However, here's what the IRS says: The absence of appropriate policies and procedures can lead to opportunities for excess benefit transactions, inurement, operation for non-exempt purposes, or other activities inconsistent with exempt status. So it is indeed prudent for your agency to consider having written policies in regard to conflict of interest, Executive Director compensation, gift acceptance, and documentation of Board meeting minutes.
And here are some important questions to ask when you create and/or review organizational policies specific to your nonprofit agency:
  1. Is the policy in alignment with your mission?
  2. Does the policy further the work of the organization?
  3. Will the policy help support staff and volunteers in doing their work better?
  4. Is the policy reflective of your unique organization culture?
  5. Is the policy appropriate for your organization's size, budget, and developmental stage?
  6. Will the policy ensure prudent fiscal and program management?
  7. Does the policy reflect nonprofit best practices, and/or standard practices in your area of service?
Know that you don't have to create policy from scratch. Try googling - there are lots of resources online - or contacting other nonprofits in your network. Feel free to cut and paste. Know too that these policies are not fixed in stone. They are living documents that should be reviewed and revised annually. Lastly, be sure to create a comprehensive policy manual that your staff and board can access readily - there's no point in having policies if you don't use them.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Latest Fundraising Tips & Trends

Good news! According to a recent study by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, 2012 saw the largest increase in charitable donations since 2006 - and predictions are that 2013 will see continued improvement.

The survey data showed that these specific strategies worked in increasing fundraising success:

Saying thanks: Nonprofits that thanked their donors promptly (within two business days after receiving a gift) fared far better than those that didn't. Saying thanks in a timely fashion makes your donors feel appreciated and acknowledged - and encourages them to keep donating.

Personal contacts: Old-fashioned fundraising techniques still work. Handwritten thank you notes, phone calls, individual chats, invitations to participate in planning for the future or to be a part of a volunteer initiative - all of these really make a big difference in a donor's sense of involvement and commitment.

Online giving: Remember when we were all uncertain about paying for something using credit cards online? Well, that attitude is now a thing of the past. People in every age group - including seniors - are increasingly making their charitable contributions online. Younger folks don't even remember what a bank check is for. This means it is essential to make online donations easy for your donors by making that all-important donate button visible on every page of your website as well as on every newsletter.

Sharing information: Providing your supporters with easy-to-read and relevant information about your work is a great way to invite them to become more involved. You can do this by posting interesting infographics on Facebook, or providing free downloads of white papers through your website. 

Re-engaging lapsed donors: Your organization  probably lost some long-time donors when the recession hit in 2008. Now people have made adjustments, and the economy has seen some improvement. Acknowledge their past support, remind them of your good work, update them on any exciting new developments, and invite them to return to the fold.

The signs are looking positive for a better year for charitable donations! Now is a good time to assess your fundraising program, identify effective strategies (from the old-fashioned to the new-fangled), and raise more money for your good work.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Nonprofit Laughs for April Fool's Day

You have to have a sense of humor if you're in the nonprofit business, especially in this era of recession and cutbacks. So, in honor of April Fool's Day, here are three of my favorite jokes:

     A rabbi, a cantor, and the synagogue board president are captured by terrorists and condemned to death by firing squad. Each is granted one wish before dying.
     The rabbi says he wants to preach the sermon he's always wanted, as long as he wants, with no censoring of his themes.
     The cantor says he wants to sing a whole service, choosing only his own favorite melodies and singing every verse of every song.
     The president of the board says, "Shoot me first."

     The president of the congregation goes to visit his rabbi in the hospital, who has just suffered a mild heart attack. He says, "Rabbi, the board just voted 12 to 8 to  wish you a speedy recovery!"

     The board president of a national nonprofit just unveiled a new fundraising campaign slogan this week to inspire the rest of the board to donate: "I Upped My Pledge: Up Yours!"

And here's a wonderfully weird, funny, and absolutely true news story for you:

     New York State's highest court has ruled that Nite Moves, an adult "juice bar" in Latham, New York, simply can't claim a tax exemption on entrance and performance fees for what it calls "musical arts performances." According to the Court of Appeals' surprisingly close 4-3 decision, "it is not irrational for the tax tribunal to decline to extend a tax exemption to every act that declares itself a 'dance performance.'"
     Speaking for the dissent, Judge Smith said, "Like the majority, I find this particular form of dance unedifying - indeed I am stuffy enough to find it distasteful. Perhaps, for similar reasons, I do not read Hustler magazine; I would rather read the New Yorker. I would be appalled, however, if the state were to exact from Hustler a tax the New Yorker did not have to pay, on the grounds that what appears in Hustler is insufficiently cultural and artistic."
     Despite this compelling argument, a majority ruled otherwise, expanding on its argument with delightfully purple prose: "If ice shows presenting pairs ice dancing performances, with intricately choreographed dance moves precisely arranged to musical compositions, were not viewed by the legislature as 'dance' entitled a tax exemption, surely it was not irrational for the tax tribunal to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status."  

Have any good nonprofit jokes or stories of your own? I'd love to add them to my collection! Post one in the common section, or email me at cjay@horizoncable.com

Friday, March 8, 2013

Using Social Media: What Works, What Doesn't

Are you dazed and confused about social media and how best to use it? Are you looking for the most effective ways to allot your limited nonprofit resources - both money and staff time - strategically and thoughtfully?

Know that you don't need to use every social media platform - and that there is no one-size-fits all strategy. You do need to figure out where your supporters are in order to use the tool that best suits your organization, whether it's Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest.

Here are five great ways to use social media:

  • Special announcements: Did someone just make a big donation? Has your organization received special recognition? Do you have a big fundraising event scheduled: Did tickets just go on sale for a new show? Social media offers an easy and quick tool for spreading the word, celebrating your successes, giving donors and volunteers a shout out, and creating a buzz.
  • Testimonials: Have a client tell a compelling story about the impact your agency work has had on his/her life. Make it short, and use video if possible - videos always draw more viewers and likes.
  • Conversations: Start a discussion about an issue relevant to your work, especially one that connects to something that's currently in the news. Ask a question to engage your followers. Or post a link to a survey soliciting feedback about your programs. The more you can invite your followers and supporters to participate, the more likely they are to become actively involved - either as volunteers or donors.
  • Calls to action: Do you need volunteers for a workday? Are you looking for a new computer? Is there an important local or regional issue that affects your nonprofits that needs to be brought to the attention of your community, or your elected representatives? Social media is one of the simplest ways to ask folks to help out or to express an opinion.
  • Website connection: You should always be using social media to drive people to your organization's website where they can learn more about your work, stay connected by signing up for your email list, and make a donation.

When it comes to fundraising, however, social media is not the magic bullet you were hoping for. It can operate as a good fundraising tool for small donations for the issue or crisis of the moment. It's a nice way for your supporters or Board members to create small birthday gift campaigns. It is an increasingly important way to grow your network, expand visibility, build your organization's reputation, and help keep folks informed about your good work.

But social media can't solve your funding problems. My ongoing experience as a fundraiser and fundraising consultant (plus every study I've seen) continues to show that the more personal your fundraising approach, the greater the return. 

The moral of this story is that along with your social media marketing you still have to do the hard, slow, face-to-face work of building relationships in order in order to raise the money for your nonprofit cause.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Debunking Five More Top Fundraising Myths

It's amazing to me how much time and energy nonprofits waste on fundraising strategies that have no basis in fact - and quite simply don't work. Here are five more common myths about fundraising and why they are incorrect:

Myth: Philanthropy comes from rich people, so your best strategy is to solicit rich strangers.
Fact: Just because someone is wealthy doesn't mean they are philanthropic, or that they will give to your particular nonprofit. In fact, rich folks are often financially comfortable because they don't give money away. On the other hand, people with modest incomes can surprise you with substantial gifts if they are dedicated to your nonprofit cause. A recent study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy indicated that middle-class households earning $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6% of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2% for people who make $100,000 or more. People don't make charitable contributions because they have lots of money; they donate because they know you, they care about your cause, they value your organizational work, and they want to help out.

Myth: Men give more money than women.
Fact: According to a study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, women age 50 and older give more than men – much more. In the highest bracket, women donate sums that are two times more than men at a similar economic level - for every $100 given by affluent men, women give $256. In fact, at every giving level, women are more likely to donate plus they give a bigger share of their income.

Myth: You don't know anyone who has money to donate.
Fact: Actually, you do. Statistics show that 65% of Americans (7 out of every 10 people you know) make charitable gifts. You are surrounded by potential donors: you just have to ask.

Myth: A good strategy is to have lots of wealthy people on your board.
Fact: A far better strategy is to have people on your board who are committed to your organization, understand their roles and responsibilities as board members, readily volunteer their time and skills, and not only make substantial gifts of their own (whether that be $50 or $10,000) but also ask their friends and acquaintances to join them in supporting your nonprofit organization.

Myth: Boards just can't and won't fundraise.
Fact: Most people who join boards have no experience with fundraising and feel anxious about asking people for money – but this can be changed. It takes leadership by staff, appropriate training, teamwork, and a paradigm shift that establishes that fundraising is a central and honorable part of your work.

Debunking common myths is a good first step in making the organizational shift to what is now being called a culture of philanthropy. This means embracing the value of fundraising as an ongoing opportunity to build relationships, expand your community, strengthen your programs, and further your mission.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top Tips for 2013

Happy new year! Here are five completely random tips that have caught my eye, all gleaned from clients, colleagues, newspaper articles, enewsletters, and the many blogs I read on nonprofit management:
  • #GivingTuesday: Over 2,600 fundraising nonprofits from across the country participated in the debut of this national fundraising day on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving - and it was a rousing success! In fact, the online donation processor Network for Good experienced a remarkable 154% increase in gifts compared to the same day a year earlier. I suggest you put it on your calendar for 2013.
  • MailChimp: The industry standard for enewsletters and email management has been ConstantContact, but many of my clients are starting to use MailChimp and really like it. It helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. Check it out at: http://mailchimp.com.
  • Weebly: If you don't have a website and want to start one, or if you're looking to switch to a very user-friendly system you can manage without a lot of tech support, take a look at this free, easy website-building service: http://www.weebly.com
  • Reply-to-All Monitor: Ever pressed the "rely to all" button and immediately regretted it? That button (along with our tendency to move too fast in this day and age) is the bane of email communication. For a mere $14.95 you can buy software that wisely asks you, every time you click that button, if you're really sure you want to reply to everyone. You can find information at: http://www.sperrysoftware.com/outlook/reply-to-all-monitor.asp
  • Resilience: Sustainability is so yesterday; the new buzzword is resilience, with a focus on adaptability and how to bounce back in our nonprofit world of crisis and rapid change. Beat the rush, and start using the new terminology now in your grant applications and fundraising appeals.

And one last suggestion – be sure take the time to keep expanding your understanding and knowledge of nonprofit management. Join online networks, check out nonprofit blogs, subscribe to enewsletters (I recommend The Chronicle of Philanthropy at: http://philanthropy.com/page/Free-Newsletters-From-The/236/ ). And most importantly, take real time to meet, talk, socialize and learn from your professional colleagues. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel; there’s a wealth of valuable information and knowledge already out there for you.

Here's hoping for a productive and resilient new year for all of you and your nonprofit organizations!