The Most Costly Mistake That Charities Make

The Most Costly Mistake That Charities Make

Apr 26

As the nonprofit sector grows increasingly competitive, charities cannot afford to make too many mistakes. Unfortunately, there’s still one mistake in particular that charities are making, and it’s costing them both donors and resources. The mistake is inundating donors with unwanted solicitations, whether that’s in the form of snail mail, e-mails, texts, or phone calls. It’s costly because it takes up time, money, and assets and in the end it only annoys donors and makes them less likely to donate in the future. Part of the reason it’s still so commonly committed is because once upon a time, it was considered a best practice. But it is now 2017. People live busy lives. The average American is already swamped with junk mail; the last thing they need is more spam. Do this instead: ask donors if they would like to receive newsletters and other information pertaining to the charity. Better yet, leave a checkbox on their donation form so that they don’t feel compelled to say “yes” when asked in person. Believe it or not, there are literally thousands of people who just want to make a one-time donation… and that’s okay. It’s unrealistic to think that sending tons of mail will convert this demographic into life-long donors. If anything, it will have the reverse effect. Not to mention, due to technology, most donors refer to an organization’s website for all the latest news and updates. Heavily invested donors can also follow the organization on social media as a way to stay current. In the end, if the person cares enough about the charity and the cause, they will continue to donate. It is the charity’s responsibility to ask donors whether or not they would like to receive additional news or information pertaining to the organization. It’s all about respecting the wants and desires of...

3 Tips for Getting a Job in the Nonprofit Sector

3 Tips for Getting a Job in the Nonprofit Sector

Feb 15

The nonprofit sector is notoriously hard to break into. But just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With a few helpful pointers, nearly anyone can find a career in the field. Tip #1: Research How Nonprofit Organizations Function Ideally, employers are looking for candidates who already have experience working in the nonprofit sector. But younger job seekers, particularly those fresh out of college, may not have this experience yet. A quick and easy way to overcome this obstacle is to research how nonprofit organizations function. Candidates should know how organizations get their funding, what the requirements are for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and be familiar with common terms that are used in the industry. Tip #2: Volunteer The sooner, the better. No, seriously. Volunteer experience leaves a lasting impression with any employer, but this is especially true for those in the nonprofit sector. Candidates will have a hard time convincing employers that they are passionate about giving back to the community without the experience to back it up. Often times, college students make the mistake of waiting until after they graduate to volunteer. With only a few months of volunteer experience under their belt, it often looks like a last-ditch effort to secure a job. Tip #3: Attend Events The same old, worn out, cliché advice about networking holds true for the nonprofit sector just as much as it does for any other industry. A great way to start building those connections is by attending events, whether that’s a fundraising event or a conference. Not only does it show a high level of interest and engagement, but it also shows dedication. Plus, nothing beats being able to talk to someone face-to-face. In a world where an average of 118 people apply for a single job, it’s critical that applicants set themselves apart in some...

The Double-Edged Sword of a Celebrity Spokesperson

The Double-Edged Sword of a Celebrity Spokesperson

Jan 12

A celebrity spokesperson can be a huge boon for a nonprofit organization, but on the other hand, they can also be a huge roadblock. Take Tom Hiddleston, for example. Hiddleston recently earned the wrath of the Internet for expressing pride that a show he worked on was appreciated by medics from Doctors Without Borders. Twitter users accused the actor of being a “white savior” because he was trying to bring attention to humanitarian efforts in the South Sudan. The whole debacle was taken out of context and blown way out of proportion. But that’s not the point. Because he now has some negative press about him, so does the United Nations Children’s Fund (the nonprofit organization that he was serving as spokesman for). It goes to show that high-profile allies can and will be criticized for everything they do, and any affiliated organizations will have to suffer those consequences as well. Angelina Jolie is another good example. She has done a great deal of good work with the United Nations since 2001. However, if social media worked then like it does now, that career would have been cut short because at some point she probably would have said or done something that the Internet could jump all over. Social media is a powerful tool, but it’s far too often used to bully people, famous or otherwise. When a nonprofit teams up with a celebrity, they have to carefully consider what kinds of social media fallout they might have to face. While there are some celebrities who are obviously not worth working with, there are others who would make for excellent spokespeople. The downside is that it’s impossible to predict the future and what could happen down the line at an awards show or red carpet event. In considering whether or not to partner up with a celebrity, it’s important for nonprofits to have an eye on social media, which is where any little mistake is going develop into a full-blown scandal. The cult of celebrity status is much more fragile now that news spreads like wildfire. It’s important to think ahead, and be ready for “damage control” should something go wrong. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore at Flickr Creative...

Nonprofits Need to Think about Security

Nonprofits Need to Think about Security

Dec 14

Preventing fraud in nonprofits is sometimes just a matter of actually thinking about accountability. The Lumberton High School band’s booster club had one person handling the mostly cash donations that they took in, which is how that person managed to steal over $70,800 dollars from the group. If there had been even one additional person responsible for that money, that theft could likely have been reduced or even prevented. The nonprofit sector is so vulnerable to fraud because, unlike the for-profit or public sectors, there are far less security measures in place, either required by law or simply put in place by ethical practices. While there are certainly more security minded nonprofits out there, most are small organizations with few employees that, though they mean well, can easily succumb to relatively simple fraud schemes. So how do we fix this? By becoming, as an entire sector of the economy, more security conscious. This means more checks and balances. Everything from writing ethical guidelines to tasking multiple people with keeping track of donations and expenditures should be included. For some nonprofits, it could even mean not taking cash donations at all, or at least making it a rule that two people have to be working together when accepting such donations. The needs of an individual organization are going to vary, of course, which means that the security concerns will vary as well. But the first step has to be realizing that security is a concern, and then sitting down to address it. Even if an organization has no history of fraud, that doesn’t mean it will never be subject to it in the future. In the case of the aforementioned Lumberton band booster club, that theft was happening over several years, so its possible to have a history of fraud without even knowing it. Why should an organization wait until after they’ve been victimized to put preventative measures in...

The Season of Giving: Breast Cancer Edition

The Season of Giving: Breast Cancer Edition

Dec 09

‘Tis the season…of donating to charities. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation offers a great way to give to a community working hard to treat and ultimately end breast cancer. And there are many other nonprofits also working to educate the public and support research. Unfortunately, we live in an age where giving to a charity isn’t as easy as it ought to be. If you’re looking to support breast cancer research and survivors this holiday season, here’s what you need to know. Where should my donations go? The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is a great place to start. With high-profile donors including Owl Rock’s Marc Lipschultz, Discovery Capital Management’s Rob Citrone, and billionaire media investor Herbert J. Siegel, the BCRF’s work draws the support of big names from all walks of life. Other great foundations waiting for your donations: Living Beyond Breast Cancer, The National Breast Cancer Foundation, and The Breast Cancer Fund. (All of these organizations received a rating of three stars or higher from Charity Navigator.) Should I go pink? Every October, all manner of companies and organizations put out pink products and advertisements in honor of breast cancer survivors and those doing research on the disease. But how much good do these campaigns really do? Getting to the truth can be tricky. Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health, notes that a lot of these companies don’t actually donate anything to breast cancer charities. Instead, they “raise awareness”—a pretty vague notion. And some of these companies, Sulik writes, simultaneously produce products that can cause breast cancer even while they paint the walls pink. “It doesn’t make much sense to buy pink ribbon products,” says Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. “By doing so, you’re simply subsidizing corporate marketing campaigns. If you want to give, give directly to the breast cancer organization.” And as an added bonus, when you give directly, you get the tax deduction—not the corporation. What else should I look out for when donating? Use websites like Charity Watch or Charity Navigator to check on the credibility of the organization you want to donate to. These sites can also tell you exactly where your money will go. If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the nonprofit’s financial reports to get a feel for their health and...

Funding Leadership Training in the Nonprofit Sector

Funding Leadership Training in the Nonprofit Sector

Dec 08

Leadership training and education is an important part of keeping nonprofits healthy, especially when it comes to transitioning between CEOs or other major leadership positions. The problem is, different organizations take different views on what kind of training is needed and funders have different ideas of what kind of training is worth funding. But according to Bridgespan, a nonprofit organization that works with other groups to improve leadership and subsequent impact, there is a gulf between what funders fund and what grantees need. Much of this seems to come down to the ability of organizations to communicate their needs to funders, but in order to do that, the organization needs to understand what those needs are in the first place. Some might put the focus on individual training of leaders or even employees who could transition into such roles. Others might put the focus on larger changes to organizational culture, allowing them to instill certain leadership mentalities in employees across the board, hoping to improve the group as a whole. What works for one nonprofit isn’t necessarily going to work for another, and figuring out what works in a given organization may take time and effort, all of which needs to be funded in the first place. As with so many other aspects of the nonprofit sector, the key to doing so is transparency. Donors need to know how money is being spent, and if that includes exploratory studies to figure out the best way to educate an organization’s leaders in order to improve its ability to follow through with it’s mission, then they need to know that. Of course, once an organization knows what kinds of leadership training it needs to engage in to improve impact, that needs to be made clear as well. Funders want to help nonprofits achieve their missions, and if the argument can be made that leadership training will improve the chances of doing that, then those efforts should be able to secure...