Non Profit Web Design

Many non profit businesses are finding that having an online presence is vital for the overall success that they have. To have the best online presence, a non profit web design is going to prove to be essential in this process. In addition to research and targeted content, you are going to find to find that there are some other essential pieces of information that will need to go into the website you are building.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this entire process will be having a domain name that is effective. This will of course mean that you need to have a domain name that either contains the name of your organization, or if you prefer, you might want to use specific keywords that will be relevant to your non profit organization. When possible, you might even want to add your state or city in the web address to add a level of credibility to your organization. Just keep in mind that you are going to have several different options here and you want to ensure it remains effective for you.

The non profit web design should also lead to a level of credibility as well. That means you need to have a mission statement that provides the exact nature of what you do, be it for helping to combat hunger, or to support your church. Along with this, you are going to want to have contact information so that anyone who is researching your organization can verify that you are an actual location and they will be able to ask any questions that might be on their mind before they donate.

Along with this, you will want to ensure that the chance to donate is easy on this system as well. There should be a donation button that will allow individuals to make a credit card payment to you without too much concern. This should be a single button that can be noticed, but isn't the main focus of your website. That will give you the chance to ensure that you get the donations you need and provide it in a professional manner.

During this time, you are also going to want to provide people with a chance to look at some of the things your organization does. This helps to add a new level of depth to the credibility that you have. Take photos of your different events and people that you help. This gives people a sense of connection and will increase the chances that they will end up making a donation to your organization. Keep in mind that there are going to be some cases where you cannot have actual pictures of the people you help. Instead, have photos of your location and fundraising events that you have done that show the images of several of the same people in the different pictures.

Non profit web design doesn't need to be complicated. By following these basics, you are going to ensure that you have an effective website that gets noticed and will prove to meet the needs of your organization.

Merchant Accounts For Non-Profit Business

Not for profit businesses are often able to receive discounted pricing for many business services because of their legal structure. However, most merchant service providers don't give non-profit merchant accounts special consideration. The news isn't all bad, though. If you're a non-profit business looking for credit card processing, you can get low rates and fees by finding a niche provider or by using your company's legal structure as bargaining power.

There are literally thousands of different service providers that write merchant accounts through a handful of large third-party processors and acquiring banks. Providers apply a mark-up to the rates and fees charged by the processor through which they write merchant accounts. Each individual provider has a certain amount of control over their mark-up and the rates and fees that they ultimately offer merchants.

In an attempt to curb the heavy competition that exists in the merchant processing industry, many providers will target a specific niche. Processors don't offer discounted rates on merchant accounts for non-profit businesses, but there are providers whose niche targets not for profit companies. These providers attempt to offer comparatively lower rates and fees to companies that can produce documentation proving non-profit status.

Of course, the competition in the merchant processing industry makes it possible to get low rates and fees from almost any provider regardless of your company's legal structure. The key is to compare merchant accounts and put effort into working with providers to bring rates and fees down.

A great way to find the best merchant account is to use an online quoting service like to get merchant account quotes from multiple providers. This service in particular lets you indicate that your company is not for profit so providers know this when they're offering you service quotes.

Regardless of how you obtain merchant account quotes, you will save yourself a lot of time by being forward with the providers that you contact. Let them know right away that your company is a non-profit and tell them what you're looking for in a merchant account. Providers can't read you mind, but they'll do what they can to earn your business if they're told how to do so.

You're going to find that many providers don't offer predefined special pricing for non-profits, but they'll most likely be willing to work with you to create a merchant account that fits your needs.

Whether your business is non-profit or not, it's important to know that the best merchant account can't be found on the Internet or by calling a few numbers in the phone book. The ideal merchant account for your business doesn't exist until you spend the time to work with a provider to create it. Don't disqualify a provider that initially says that they don't offer special pricing for non-profit businesses.

Tips on Using Fire Pits For Your Non Profit Business

Depending on the type of nonprofit business that you are operating, incorporating fire pits into your meetings and retreats can be a very useful way to get your team to think outside of the box. Fire pits are very effective at creating a different type of atmosphere that encourages team members to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems. Whether you are working together to help your local community or you are trying to find answers to larger social and ecological problems, here are a few ways to use fire pits to keep everyone on track and focused on reaching the goals of your organization.

One of the best methods of using pits in an non profit workplace is to have a dedicated space for your fire pit where you and your team members can go when it is time to brainstorm or put together an effective strategy for a particularly difficult task. Anytime that you are starting on a new project or feel like you are starting to get mired in logistical details, simply light up the fire and encourage everyone to come over and try to find the most innovative and efficient solutions for the problem. Remember, there are no bad ideas when it comes to brainstorming, so encourage your team members to share whatever thoughts come into their mind.

Over time, your fire pit can become a powerful reminder to everyone in your organization that your workplace is a place that they should feel free to think outside the box and tackle difficult problems the best way that they can think of. Most people who choose to work for a non profit organization are interested in contributing to loftier goals than their own careers and bank accounts, and a pit can be a great symbol that your organization is about something larger than generating profits.

Fire pits are also a great item to have when you are hosting social functions for the employees of your non profit business. These devices are particularly useful if you happen to be working toward protecting the environment from unregulated development and other ecological threats. A gentle fire burning in fire pit can remind your guests of the natural world that you are working together to protect in a much more subtle manner than a lengthy speech. Gathering around a fire pit to enjoy some good food and conversation is a terrific way for you and your team to spend some time bonding with one another.

Better Not Be a Non Profit Business

Non Profit organizations are often criticized for not being run "like a business". What that means is pretty murky but seems to imply that the Non Profit is wasteful and could do better by following general business practices. This assertion has always amused me. Especially now as we see so many For Profit businesses closing or being bought by others for a small percentage of their worth a few weeks ago. It seems as if being run "like a business" isn't all it's cracked up to be!

Non Profit organizations are often run by people who aren't business majors. They are former teachers, social workers, ministers, etc. Their primary interest in the Non Profit organization is that of providing services. Often the organization was started by volunteers who have a strong interest in a specific social concern such as homelessness, eradication of a disease (breast cancer, heart disease), services to people who have experienced a disaster (Katrina, 9.11.01). Their expertise lies in the direction of providing these services. The lack of business management training among the staff may lead certain observers to criticize the way business is done. In fact a few problems may arise if the staff does not pay sufficient attention to the legal and accounting standards associated with Non Profit management. However, many times these skills can be found in the person of volunteers such as attorneys and accountants. By using volunteer expertise, the Non Profit saves their meager income for the provision of the service which is the core of the mission of the organization.

The advantages which a Non Profit organization has include that it has fewer expenses of doing business. Many Non Profits have free or low cost housing provided by a benefactor. Supplies are often available at lower cost than For Profit business and may be donated. Some staff may be volunteers including fund raisers, officers of the Board of Directors, a speakers bureau who make presentations on behalf of the Non-Profit, and the professional volunteers mentioned above. It is important to hire staff who have expertise in the service which constitutes the core mission of the Non Profit. This means that the quality of the service provided will be top notch. Many Non Profits have a group of dedicated volunteers who have helped the organization for many years. Without these volunteers the organizations would not survive.

It is uninformed to imply that the many Non Profit organizations which are run very competently by a small, dedicated staff and loving volunteers could improve if they adopted the business standards which are rampant today. Perhaps business should consider imitating Non Profits. Being dedicated to a service which is provided could transform many businesses.

When businesses saw their role in the community as very important - important enough to consider the effect of closing the business on the town where it was located, for example - they received more respect and may have been more stable. The employees and town folk are more likely to support such businesses. This same spirit could transform our communities and businesses where profits are the only motive leading to the demise of both.

Non-Profit Business Plan

Whatever type of business you intend to start, whether for profit or non-profit, you have to have a business plan. You need a detailed description and clear objective of how you intend to operate your intended business. This is an essential step for every business that intends to succeed. Furthermore if you have one, you may have an easier time especially if you will require funding.

You will need to appear professional and capable when looking for money for your non-business. A solid business plan will help you cover various areas if you are trying to access funds through a grant application. Since it already has all the necessary information required, it will be easier and faster to process your application. This type of business mostly gets its money from donors.

When you decide to write a non-profit business plan, you have to include a mission statement plus the experience of the staff. In addition an in depth description of what the business is all about the services that you will be offering to the public will be required. A description of the challenges and prospect that the business may face in the first years is also a necessary aspect that has to be included.

As the business continues to grow, the business plan continues to change. This is vital because the needs of the business keep altering and may need more financing along the way. Perhaps you are shifting to a different location or the need to expand. The not-for-profit business plan can be used as an effective management tool. It benefits the business as the team members will be compelled to think in the long term. This will help the business progress in the right direction.

Stepping Back From the Cliff (or Rekindling Hope for an Organization on the Brink)

My mom was a little concerned about traveling with my brother Frits to Arizona for my sister's wedding. It was a long plane flight, with a connection, and there were several details that needed to get straightened out. He wasn't on a ventilator all the time at that point, but he did need it for sleeping. There were the medications, distilled water, tubes and attachments for the ventilator, assorted other supplies, his wheelchair (not to mention convincing the airline staff that Frits couldn't be transported in one of their standard wheelchairs as he couldn't hold himself up). This was back in the early 90's, I couldn't image trying to manage all that with the regulations for flying in effect today. But in the midst of thinking through all these things, my mom took Frits to see his doctor and ask if there was anything else she should be worried about in relation to the travels. His response has brought us laughter many times - "Just don't get to close to the edge (of the Grand Canyon)". Somehow, that helped to alleviate some of the anxiety of that trip. We had a great time - and no, Frits didn't get TOO close to the edge.

In November, I had a coaching session with the Executive Director of a small organization. Things were in dire straits. Payroll was behind by more than a week. The ED was tempted to throw in the towel, but wasn't quite ready to let go. However, it was easy to get mired in the details and in everything that hadn't worked before. The board wasn't actively engaged in fundraising. The mission of the organization had gotten somewhat fuzzy. And while their program efforts had been successful, supporters had been slowly drifting away. I got the feeling from our conversation that they felt like they were getting very close to the edge. They needed a good size cash infusion - and quickly.

Does this sound like any organization you've been involved with? There are at least seven organization that come to mind for me without putting much thought in to it. Having been on staff with such an organization at one point, I know how easy it can be to slip in to a state of hopelessness.

So how do you start to turn things around? How do you rekindle hope when there doesn't seem to be much left - and when you're feeling like no one else quite understands how dire things are?

Here are a few thoughts to get you started.

First, take a step back - and take a deep breath. You've simply gotten too close to the edge. Find someone safe to talk things through with who will not get drawn into the bleakness of the situation with you. Someone who can look at things from an outside perspective (and preferable someone who is well-acquainted with fundraising and nonprofits.

Review your organization's mission. Is it still needed? Are you clear on what your vision is or has it gotten diluted as you try to keep funding coming in? Reconnect with the core things that the organization was started to accomplish. If necessary make the mental adjustments to reflect what is most needed in your organization today. Ideally, this would be done as part of a board meeting or board planning retreat, but as a first step you can do this on your own. Don't just look at what your organization does, identify how the community will be different as a result of your work.

Next, recognize that the same thinking that got you into this situation will not get you out of it. Spend some time reviewing what you've tried over the last few years, but don't be constrained by it. Put together an outline of a plan (one-page is fine) that includes: (a) what could be accomplished in the next 2-3 years if the money were there, and (b) how you will rebuild a funding base if given the opportunity.

Now, take a close look at who your largest donors have been over the last few years. Is there a foundation whose giving priorities align with your organization? Is there an individual, or group of individuals who were instrumental in getting your organization started? Who have you been out of touch with? Who is still in the area and might want to help be a part of turning things around for your organization? Now is not the time to start trying to build new relationships as it can take 3-6 months (and up to several years) to cultivate a new large gift. If I'm understanding your situation right, you don't have that kind of time.

Go talk to the people you have identified. I know that it's tempting in cases like these to try to sugarcoat the situation. Be honest and see if there is still a place in their heart for your cause.Lay it all out - how much is needed to get the bills back up-to-date, how much it costs annually to run the organization, and all the great things your organization could do - if given the chance.

This next step might catch you off guard, but don't ask for a gift. Ask for their advice on how to get through this time. Chances are, they don't want an organization that they've supported in a significant way to go away. They may offer to make a large gift themselves, or they may be able to introduce you to others who can help bridge the gap between now and when your long-term strategies start kicking in.

Once you have a commitment to get you through the short-term dilemma it's time to start implementing your long-term plan. Start building new relationships, adapt your materials to reflect your vision of how the community will be different. Build your base. And don't wait. Start as soon as you are able. And keep your primary supporter up-to-date about how things are proceeding. If things start getting off track they might be able to help.

When Influential Board Members Are Just Plain Wrong

Author's Note: I had a strong desire to write this article several years ago and started outlining it in my mind over and over. My outline was pretty much shaped up several months ago. The first draft was completed several weeks ago. I was having a hard time deciding how to end the article, so I stopped writing and let my subconscious work on it for a while. I believe the issues addressed in this article are among the most challenging any non-profit will face. I know of several similar situations. It is very hard to speak up - and sometimes reverse course - when an influential board member (or, worse, several influential board members) push an agenda that is detrimental to the non-profit organization. I hope the ending to the article is now appropriate.

What is a non-profit organization (NPO) to do when its most influential board members are just plain wrong? And, what are the implications for other NPOs, particularly in a small to medium-sized community when a single project emerges and sucks the life out of the collective non-profit community by demanding tremendous amounts of donor contributions (public and private) and human energy? As non-profits struggle more and more in this down economy, a well-intentioned, but just plain ill-conceived community project can wreak havoc on the community's welfare for years and years to come. In fact, one could argue that it would be impossible to compute the long-term damage to the community.

As an aside, non-profits need to know that the accounting rules changed some years ago (well before Sarbanes-Oxley) so that "multi-year" pledges offer no accounting benefit to the donor and, arguably, can confuse the contribution issue. Multi-year pledges by a corporation or foundation must be accounted for, in full, in the year the pledge was made - not the year in which the funds were actually dispersed - even if the donor uses accrual-based accounting. It makes sense when you think about it: the donor has incurred an Account Payable for future years and that pledge (commitment) needs to be taken into account (booked) in the present term to properly value the debts of the company.

Why does the booking of multi-year pledges and an ill-conceived community project present a "perfect storm" that can wreak havoc on a small community? To use an example, an excessively expensive community project was championed by influential community leaders (let's refer to these leaders as the "best and brightest") and large contributions were requested from local corporations which required the payment of those contributions over, say, a five-year period. Because the accounting regulations required the booking of the donation in the year in which the pledge was made, corporations had unwittingly tied up their contributions budgets for several years into the future. This was particularly problematic for regional operations of larger corporations (such as banks) - whose local management did not even know about the accounting requirements - and for other local non-profits who were expecting to be back in the running for funding in the subsequent years. Many non-profits were even told they were over-reacting, not to worry, and to come back next year with their funding request. Unfortunately, many non-profits were taken out of the funding loop for at least five years due to the multi-year commitments made toward one large community project.

Let's put some numbers to this example to make it even clearer. If a solicitation was made to a local corporation in the amount of $250,000, chances are that the corporation would have to "spread" the actual contribution over several years (from a cash flow standpoint). With pressure applied by key community leaders in the solicitation of unprecedented large contributions to a single capital campaign, not only did that individual pledge exceed the donor's current-year total contribution budget for the community, but the donor, in essence, "borrowed" from its contributions budget in future years in order to be able to make the large pledge and be part of the "in crowd" to help meet the target of the capital campaign. There was much confusion between the solicitor, the donor, and all the rest of the non-profits that were left out in what was thought to be only a one-year funding crunch. Make no mistake about it: the pressure that key community leaders can place on virtually all of the corporate and private donors in a small community is very real - and frightening - especially if the project is ill-conceived. Few donors are able to resist the pressure when the community's "best and brightest" come calling.

As the actual future unfolds over the next five, ten, or fifteen years, this particular example would be an excellent case study in governance and accountability to determine the long-term, negative effects of an ill-conceived community project that was made possible only when the "best and brightest" (which we, unfortunately, often define as those with access to the most money) board members of just one non-profit exerted major community pressure to force a "solution" (project) to a community "need" that did not even exist.

As we continue to attempt to learn about the proper (best practices) governance of organizations within the Non-Profit Sector, it is difficult to understand how the community's "best and brightest" could be led down the so-called primrose path (i.e., delude themselves) into conceiving a project of such magnitude that no logical business plan could sustain. The small non-profits - those with the "regular" board members - were able to see the writing on the wall, but despite numerous efforts by many other truly wise community leaders, the "magic project" forged ahead - literally at all costs.

Let me mention another pet peeve of mine. I am of the opinion that most any group can form a non-profit and solicit funds for a capital campaign (i.e., the construction or purchase of a facility to house the non-profit). We see this happen all the time. It is not unusual for even a small community to have multiple capital campaigns under way concurrently without any coordination among them as to the timing. However, when the capital campaign is over, funds never seem to be forthcoming when it comes to the actual operation of the facility. (Worse, many large foundations limit or exclude requests for contributions to operations.) So, a successful capital campaign can launch or expand a non-profit only to see it fail because sufficient operating funds were never available.

Again, let's make this example clearer by putting some numbers to it. Let's say the budget for the construction of the new building was $50 million and its annual operating budget was projected to be $25 million. (By the way, the projected annual operating budget for this one new project exceeded the sum total of all the other arts and cultural NPOs in the small community, thereby making the ill-conceived "magic project" even more disastrous; surprisingly this fact was never fully understood by its board or the community at large.) And, sadly, things got worse: the construction budget went from $50 million to $100 million! How could something like this happen? After all, the community's "best and brightest" were on the board, celebrities from all around the state, nation, and world were being hauled into the community to tout the magnificent vision of such an ambitious project; certainly, once and for all, the community would finally be "put on the map" as a true destination location.

Unfortunately, things just continued to go bad. The construction budget was again exceeded, community donations had long since dried up, and even the "deep pocket" contributors were becoming nervous. Somebody on the board dreamed up a solution of obtaining personal guarantees from some of the wealthy board members to cover the construction loans - never intending to need to call on those personal guarantees if the ongoing fundraising was successful. But, the notes with the personal guarantees were called by the banks when the recession hit and the scrutiny on bank lending practices came under intense review.

Some would say there was a bright spot in this worst-case scenario project: the construction was (basically) completed and perhaps the most spectacular grand opening event in the history of the community was staged. "Regular members" of the community were even invited to participate with the "best and brightest" and the festivities were indeed unprecedented. Every dignitary imaginable was invited to come and congratulate the non-profit organization for its commitment and vision.

And, so, the new project was completed and opened to the public for visitation.

But, nobody came.

And, the operational problems continued and began to surface.

At first, the fact that the projected attendance figures were all wrong was simply explained as not a problem. After all, the project was to draw people from all over the state, the country - even the world - and it would take some time for the marketing and advertising to produce results.

With the grand-opening festivities complete, the "best and brightest" board members retired or resigned and the remaining and new board members inherited an unbelievable reality: funds for the operating budget had not been raised. The inaugural executive director died suddenly, newly hired staff members were terminated, operating hours were reduced, entrance fees were increased (this was a particularly curious decision since the visitation was already nil - if people were not paying a $5 admission fee why would they pay a $10 admission fee?). Just about anything that could go wrong went wrong, including mechanical equipment malfunctions, architectural design problems, and a contractual dispute with a key tenant in building. A mid-summer storm even flooded one of the main ground floor galleries! What else could go wrong? The non-profit even approached several public (governmental) entities to rescue the project, but those requests were denied.

An answer soon came: the economy went into recession. In a sordid way of looking at things, this was a blessing for the "best and brightest" because there was now an excuse for the unbelievably poor project planning: it was nobody's fault; the recession caused all the problems. (Sadly, to this day, some people actually believe that story to be true...) The board was meeting in private trying quietly and quickly to solve its problems, other NPOs were yelling "we told you so" and with the festivities and celebrations and public acclaim over, the "best and brightest" disappeared from sight (and site).

So-called "worst-case scenarios" like this one could occur in any community. When attempting to teach best practices for non-profit projects, the challenge is to look back at how the problem was allowed to reach such negative proportions and determine what can be learned to prevent it from happening again. Such a review should be all the more important when, truly, the community's most benevolent and dedicated donors were all at the board table and determined to move forward with the project. Is it possible that they were ALL duped? Ideally, it would seem that someone would have questioned the assumptions. However, in reality, appropriate questioning does not often happen around the NPO board table (and this must change with in the Non-Profit Sector). CEOs have taken quite a public beating in recent years (rightly so) and it seems logical that any CEO must be more focused on his or her primary business than the business of any non-profit board that he or she serves (in other words, if the board member cannot give thoughtful focus to the NPO, that board member has no business serving on the board). From a governance standpoint - and an accountability standpoint - this situation presents serious consequences for the entire community.

It would make sense to continue this article with suggestions that could prevent, or even remedy, such ill-conceived projects; but, instead, I will choose to leave the question open - hoping that this article can provoke some thought and action within the important Non-Profit Sector. Just what does a community do when its wealthy and, therefore, powerful citizens come together for all the best intentions, but royally botch the project? Who picks up the pieces when these leaders disappear (i.e., run for cover)? Are there lessons to be learned and will those who messed up allow the lessons to be learned? Are powerful citizens able to admit failures and discuss course-corrections? Will they put their own money (not that of the stockholders of company which they lead) into solving the problem they created? Will they put their own time (not that of the company whose stockholders pay their salary) into making the hard decisions? The answers to these questions will affect the success or failure of the Non-Profit Sector in every community. There simply must be accountability for the board-directed, non-profit organizations that make bad decisions.

Let me return to my "Author's Note" at the beginning of the article. Not until the state of the union address by the president, and the media comments that followed, did an appropriate way to end this article finally hit me. One of the journalists that I most admire is Bob Schieffer - he is very experienced and, quite frankly, has reached the pinnacle of his career; whereupon, he can pretty much say whatever he wants to say. Hearing him speak after the state of the union address, I was reminded of a totally unrelated "Face the Nation" episode where Bob Schieffer closed by saying words to the effect, 'after all my years in this business, I keep asking myself when politicians will learn to just tell us the truth.' Amen. If there is a serious community problem - particularly of the magnitude portrayed in this article - then the "best and brightest" owe the community the truth - as quickly as they determine it - not after they have tried to cover it up - and not after they have chosen to run away from it.

Something tells me that if the truth is shared during the non-profit project conception and planning stages, the community will be capable of making any necessary course-corrections to avoid disasters. Yes, Bob, your question was well-stated: when will 'they' learn to tell 'us' the truth? Equally importantly, when will 'we' demand it?

What Makes It An Event?

In today's competitive environment, there is no scarcity of events. Most of us are inundated by invitations, by a number of organizations, to a variety of functions, including sports events (usually golf or tennis tournaments), casino nights, cabarets, auctions, galas, fetes, etc. However, to truly make an event special, one needs to look at the word event letter by letter, and analyzing all the various components.

E: Memorable events know that they must be an experience. There are so many events held that people must pick and choose which to support and attend, and have become far more selective, particularly in this challenging economy. An event becomes an experience by doing something different and developing the WOW factor.

V: Your event must provide value to the attendees. This value must fall into two categories, actual value and perceived value. In my over thirty years of professionally organizing and planning events, I have learned that one of the greatest failings organizations have regarding their events is that they do not pay attention to the value aspect. Many organizers are so close to the cause that they are blinded by their view of the reality of the circumstances because they are so devoted and convinced of the organization's importance. However, to attract others to pay attention, value must be considered. Real value is how the monies are being spent, while perceived value is the value others put on what is being offered. For both of these reasons, as well as practical reasons, organizations must pay keen attention to professionally negotiating all related aspects of every event. The most damaging error to the eventual success of an event is when negotiations are inadequate, causing the organization to pay far more than they needed to.

E: Especially when it comes to events that are run on a regular basis (often annually or semi- annually), care must be taken to maintain the heritage, excitement, and importance of the event, while realizing that the event must be tweaked regularly so that it does not get boring and mundane. This evolution should be gradual, yet obvious, and instill needed life and interest into the event, while maintaining interest. The most successful repeat events are constantly tweaked and evolved.

N: There is perhaps little as essential to success in event planning as effective and professional negotiations. Event professionals realize that they must do their homework and use win- win negotiating techniques to assure that there are no last minute surprises, and that everything is thoroughly and properly planned for each event, and every single aspect.

T: One of the worst things that a event organizer can do is to be satisfied by mediocrity, and feeling that okay is good enough. The goal for every organizer must be that his event is nothing less than terrific, and that he never settle for okay. True event professionals strive to create events that are sought after before, and consider great after.

Event professionals understand that they must mold all of these aspects and more to get their desired results. Successful event planning requires superb planning, attention to details, attention to the needs and priorities of the event, and a dedication to the utmost standards of professionalism. When this is done, the chances of experiencing great results is optimized!

How to Hire High Performers

Sometimes, those of us who lead non-profit organizations, are inclined to hire anyone with a normal temperature. We make the assumption that anyone willing to work for subsistence wages is qualified to do what we need them to do. We point with pride to the hard work being done by underpaid staff members, as well we should. But it all comes back to bite us when those semi-volunteers leave us after three months to pursue their next dream. Or the mismatch can be so great that it leaves a new hire with little choice but to not return from lunch during their first day on the job.

As most of you know it is not unusual to see entry level staff turnover in the range of 30-50% and turnover rates above that are not unheard of by any means. All of which leads to excessive personnel costs and dissatisfaction amongst the people we are trying to help; no one likes a constant parade of people in and out of their lives.

So the turnover problem begins with premature hire decisions; that is, hiring the first warm body to come along, but it also has to do with the fact that we really don't have hiring standards. We don't have a standardized model which governs how we make hire decisions. Most times we know a whole lot more about the performance potential of a $7500 copier than we do about a $18000 entry level worker that we have just hired. So, while the internet is full of tips and guidance for applicants, most of us have never learned the proper way to find an applicant who will be a high performer. The good news is that we can learn how to do this.

What you need is a clear and consistent system of hiring. Start by specifying the essential competencies required for success on the position you are trying to fill. Then design a series of questions that allow the candidate to illustrate from past performance their experience with that competency. Always ask "what have you done?" Never ask, "what will you do?" Finally jot down the answers that you would like to hear from a qualified candidate; positive indicators that this candidate has the competency you are looking for. It's tough. Because as the candidate is talking you are listening for three things: skill level, motivation level and the degree to which this position is a "fit" with the person's career. There are normally compromises made since the perfect candidate is not out there; you're looking for the best one. Remember, most skills can be taught. Whereas, the motivational style of a person may have been with the candidate since childhood and highly resistive to change.

Motivating Staff Who Don't Care

Frequently, I find myself talking to supervisors in non-profit organizations about how to motivate their staff. Funny thing, people who work in non-profit agencies can evidently be just as unmotivated as their counterparts in the traditional, for-profit business community. Whenever I open the session up to questions, I always get a question that goes something like this, "So Larry, how do I get my staff engaged when they don't seem to be at all motivated?"

That's the $64k question and if you develop a magic pill to do that, you will make a lot of money selling that pill to supervisors and managers around the world.

The problem is that the answer does not lie in a pill. Engagement or motivation (I use the terms somewhat synonymously) isn't like a coat that you can put on or take off. For jobs in human services where the capacity to think and make judgments is involved, neither pay raises, bonuses, extra vacation time, special percs or any other external benefit impacts motivation. In fact they can serve as de-motivators. As nice as the extra money is, a pay raise only supercharges energy level for about 10 days.

Why is it that we claim to know so much about changing client behavior but so little about how to change the behavior of staff? The answer to employee motivation is not likely to come from the employee but rather from a complex network of supervisory behaviors; behaviors which develop a workplace environment where not only clients can change but where staff attitudes and behaviors can change as well.

What follows is my description of that network of supervisory behaviors which will in fact change the behavior of staff. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

1. Reduce mis-hires. Some people you should not have hired in the first place; eventually you will terminate these people. Finding people with positive energy and a can-do attitude will have a tremendous payoff in the long haul. They can be found.

2. Be clear about duties and expectations. Align these with the mission of the organization and talk about it at every staff meeting...and in between too.

3. Emphasize learning for everyone, from top to bottom. Make the quality improvement value come alive and show people how learning new skills makes them more productive. Demonstrate your personal commitment to improving your skills as a supervisor.

4. Show an interest in the personal stressors of your employees. Don't pry or be in any way unprofessional; and don't excuse a lack of performance, but you need to understand the mountains they have to climb in order to be successful on the job. It will engender tremendous loyalty when you do this well and you just might be able to help them or point them in the direction of help.

5. Tell employees, over and over again, "I (your supervisor) will do what I need to do to help you be successful on the job." Be a cheerleader and a promotional agent for your employees; share their accomplishments with others in the organization.

6. Give people honest feedback from their first day on the job.

7. Be a supervisor who is trustworthy and dependable. You are the professional here; in a way you are a parent. Recognize that the changes you are asking employees to make in their attitudes and behavior is a big change and it's scary because new behavior takes them, like the rest of us, out of their comfort zone. Remove fear and help them feel safe by providing a firm, fair and consistent environment. It will make real change happen faster.

I wish I could say that this was a simple, fast process. It is not. And there are few guaranteed outcomes. But I challenge you to show your employees that change is possible by adopting just one of the 7 suggestions above. It will concretely demonstrate your commitment to quality and you will experience the challenge of personal change. That will only make you a better supervisor - guaranteed.

Don't Compel Me To Give To Your Liberal Socialist Causes - How Would You Like the Opposite?

Now then, I completely understand why some folks are driven to help the common good and fix things in the world they view as unfair, unjust, or just not right. In fact, I have a list of my own causes that I give to and donate my time to, and in doing so, well, I get it and understand why liberal socialist thinkers want to raise my taxes and have the government sponsor their charities or causes. However, this way of doing things is also unjust, and I'd like to discuss this for a moment.

You see, I know that our government is less-than-efficient, and before you condemn me for criticizing my government, let me tell you that I am a free-market entrepreneur, and I "know" efficiency. If our government wastes 45% collecting my taxes, leaving 55% remaining, and then wastes 50% of the remainder in administration and thus, the grand total of my tax dollar going for the cause is 27.5% and thus, wouldn't it be much better if people donated to the causes they totally believed in directly, and if they don't believe in it, they won't.

Consider if you will that I am quite concerned with the 35% fraud in food-stamps in the US, so after the 27.5% of my tax dollar actually reaches its destination, 35% is stolen meaning about a third is again wasted around 9%, meaning we are down to 17-18% and that my friends is "inefficient" without a doubt. Therefore, I do not agree to have my tax dollar spent in such an inefficient manner, if that bothers anyone tough.

The way to feed folks who really need help is to do it locally in the community, and to help people help themselves, get back on their feet, and sustain themselves, therefore, one day become part of the solution helping others do the same. Forcing people to help others or forcing them to give to causes they do not feel comfortable in giving to, is wrong - not only that, it causes the opposite effect, indeed it has caused me to point this fact out to you and write this article online, along with 100s of others, seriously.

Think about how we are causing a rift in our society here. I ask you to think about this, and how you might like it if I demanded that you pay for my very conservative causes, ones you may actually despise - do you see my point here? Please consider all this.

Peer-To-Peer Event Fundraising Tips

Many summer peer-to-peer fundraising events will be opening registration in the upcoming months (hopefully, yours included).

To get the most from your event this year, it's important to realize that your participants are a diverse group and you need to speak to each group differently.

Sending one-size-fits-all event update isn't going to cut it anymore. You have to target each audience with a tailored message - one that speaks to them.


Your participants have different motivators, perspectives and needs. They also have varying levels of commitment to your event and organization.

First-time participants have separate needs from longtime participants. Superstar fundraisers respond differently than those who raise the minimum. Team captains have a different perspective than individual participants.

With so much money at stake, it's important that your event communications resonate with participants and anticipate their needs. Strive to answer their questions before they even think of them.

Just like email appeals, crafting unique messages for different audiences is the best way to connect, inform and motivate participants.

So, how can you start segmenting your audiences, tailoring your communications and improving your fundraising results? Here's seven ideas to get you started.

7 Event Participant Types and How to Effectively Communicate with Them

Your communications should tell all participants why donations are needed and how they've been previously used. Besides that, here's what to say to your unique audiences:

Superstar fundraisers

Show them the love! Your communications should let them know how much they're appreciated. Chances are they're closely connected to your cause. More than other participants, share outcomes of past donations. Tell them "you did this!" Also monitor their fundraising progress and reach out by phone, if needed.


Keep communications brief. This group will be tough to motivate, so focus on incentives, contests and convenience. Highlight the ease of fundraising by social media and email. Remember, 1 in 4 emails result in a donation. Those who use Twitter raise 10x more than those who don't. Tell them you know they're busy.

Team captains

Show them the love, too! Captains are the lifeblood of your event. Send communications that help them manage their team. Include reminders about deadlines and contests. Tell them what they should communicate to their team at different stages of the event. Provide ideas to grow and inspire their team.

New participants

Explain your mission and why donations are needed in a simple, concise way. Remember, they'll have to retell it to potential supporters, many for the first time. If you can connect them to your cause, the rest will fall into place. Instead of overloading them, focus on the simple things they can do at each stage of the event. "You've registered! Here are 2 ways to get started" or "The event is a month away."

New teams

In addition to what's outlined above for new participants, communicate the rankings of top teams to motivate those with a competitive side. Send event and team-related details, so they're not bombarding their team captain with questions. Highlight team-specific contests, like best theme or largest team. Feature stories of other teams.

Returning participants

Returning participants are like gold to any event fundraising organization so make sure you acknowledge they're the reason for the success of past events. Outline how last year's donations were used and tell them what you could do with more money this year. Be specific! Vague, high-level phrases do not inspire.

Returning teams

In addition to what's outlined above for returning participants, include rankings of top teams and many team stories. Learning about other teams will give returning teams fresh ideas and motivation. Also feature team-related contests and incentives.

Three Hot Tips for Really Cool Managers

As we enter the second month of the new year, you may be beginning to question whether or not your goals for 2012 will ever really be achieved; already certain obstacles seem insurmountable. During the last week or so, a collection of ideas have floated across my desk, which will be helpful to those of us who are determined to experience success this year - whatever that may mean for each of us individually.

Tip #1: Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn. I think we can learn from success too, but failure definitely helps identify areas in which we need to grow - it's a to-be-learned punch list. It's a gift; an opportunity. Earlier I had read about a company that offered bonuses for failure. Then this week, I saw an article about a private girl's school that was going to sponsor "failure week." This will be an opportunity for students to acknowledge their mistakes without fear of punishment and identify areas for further study, research and action that will prevent a mistake from happening again. Remember, if you're skiing and not falling you are not becoming a better skier.

Tip#2: Support new ideas. Just for once, encourage people to try new things. Try not to respond skeptically. Avoid using language which places an obstacle in the way of trying new ideas. Words like: It's too late; nothing can be done about that; you can't fight city hall; you might as well give up; we cant afford that; what's the use; we tried that before; you don't understand; that will never work for the kind of kids we have. Imagine how much better the world, or your organization might be if the suggested new approach would actually work and then commit to supporting that effort.

Tip #3: Don't manage time, manage activities. You can't manage time; there is only so much of it in a day and it moves along at the same relentless pace regardless of what we do. We only have so much time in a day, in a year, or in our lifetime. We have no idea what the future holds; only the past is known.

At the beginning or at the end of the day, take a sheet of paper and write down the various things that you would like to get done during the coming day. Assign a letter of the alphabet to each task. A= tasks that will negatively impact the well-being of your organization or your family if you don't get them done. B= tasks that would be nice to get done in the coming day, but they can readily be done later in the week. C= tasks that would be nice to complete but no clear consequence if you don't get them done. D= tasks that you can delegate to others. Within each category there may be some tasks that are more important than others - do them first and don't go to the B list before you have finished the A list.

Avoid doing things simply because you feel like doing them; do what will make a difference. Then you can go home feeling like you have really accomplished something.

Freedom of Speech Should Rule on Non-Profit Boards

There is perhaps no greater right granted under our Constitution than freedom of speech. As we go about our daily lives, we hear and read ridiculous things - totally incorrect things - and, with very few exceptions, it is pretty much legal for anyone to say anything about everything.

So, why is there such silence around the non-profit board tables across the country?

I recently wrote an article about an ill-conceived project by one non-profit that has effectively stymied an entire group of non-profits in that community. My theory was that there were plenty of "right minded" board members, but that they took a back seat to the "strong minded" ones. The "right minded" people chose not to speak up.

I remember taking a leadership test many years ago. It was based on a survival exercise where a team of people were stranded in the desert and had to select among certain items (matches, tarp, blanket, etc.) to survive. And, according to expert survivalists, there was a correct combination of items. In other words, it was possible for the team to select the wrong combination of items and likely not survive in the desert. The larger group was divided into teams of five people. The point of the exercise was for the team to work together, using its collective wisdom, and collaborate on the correct survival items to choose. After the exercise was completed and the correct answers announced, there was plenty of arguing with the survivalist (freedom of speech!) about which excluded items should have also been included in his official list. However, it turned out that the specific items selected were not the point of the exercise. Instead, the manner in which the team worked together to come to consensus on the selected survival items was the key point. It was all about leadership attributes: style, intelligence, persuasiveness, and, well, the willingness to just speak up!

What I remember most about the exercise was that the right combination of these attributes constituted the best leader; the wrong combination had dire consequences. For example, just about every team emerged with a "leader" - at least that person was the spokesperson for the team when it was time to announce the survival items that it selected to the larger group. The key point was this: the worst leader had very strong persuasive skills and very weak knowledge; in other words, the worst leader could prevail upon the team to make the wrong decision. The best leader was the one who could collaborate with the entire team and reason through the options to guide the team toward the best decision.

The revelation of this exercise has stuck with me for 25 years. It is a perfect example of what takes place every day in many different situations, including - the point of this article - the non-profit board meeting.

Let's look at some of the key issues involved as a board member sits around the board table:

The board member must show up (you cannot participate if you are not there). Sounds pretty elementary, but how do you exercise your first amendment rights when you are not even in the discussion?

It is critical that the board member have knowledge of the issue being discussed. However, it is not necessary that the board member be an expert; it is only necessary for there to be some basic level of knowledge and ability to think - and speak up! So, reviewing the basics of the issue before the meeting is critical.

There is an old adage that says the person who speaks often gets little notice and the person who speaks last often carries the issue. So, at the board table - especially if the board member is not an expert in the issue under consideration - it is critical to listen more than talk. But, again, the board member must exercise freedom of speech at some point in the meeting.

Importantly, it does not matter if the comments of the board member are seemingly ridiculous. After all, the point is exercising freedom of speech - sharing ideas no matter how right or wrong - which, hopefully, will keep a board from heading off in the wrong direction because there was not enough discussion and debate before a decision was made.

As I write this article, we are in the throes of the primaries and caucuses that will lead to the selection of a Republican candidate for president. Perhaps in no other arena is freedom of speech so wildly exhibited. People seem to be able to say whatever they want about anything, everything, and everybody. Right or wrong never seems to get in the way of freedom of speech. Then there is the media: one day you hear one thing, the next day something entirely different. (One of my pet peeves is that we often do not hear anything from the media on issues of great importance...) Maybe - just maybe - the point is that it's not so much what is said (right or wrong) but whether speech can stimulate thought, then analysis, and ultimately reasoned decision.

A good while ago, I wrote an article on whether executive directors should be board members. Apparently, that is an issue of great concern in the Non-Profit Sector. I still don't much like the idea and the primary reason is that I believe a fundamental duty of a non-profit board is to set policy (not implement plans - that's the appropriate job of the executive director) and my experience indicates that boards that include the executive director as a member ultimately become boards that are led almost entirely by the executive director, thereby losing the criticality of the input of the board itself. I would doubt there is anybody who has ever served on a non-profit board that has not witnessed inappropriate guidance exerted by an executive director on his or her board members (whether openly or behind the scenes).

The point of this article is that the style and strategy of non-profit boards must encourage freedom of speech by all board members. Generally, the leadership required to make sure every board member is heard will come from the board chair. But, even in cases where the board chair is weak - or too strong - every board member has the right and obligation to speak up. I am very much of the opinion that intelligent board members regularly allow poor decisions to be made by not exercising their right to offer their thoughts on the issue at hand.

So, as we get deeper and deeper into the political season where freedom of speech is a cornerstone issue and we will be reminded of it ad nauseam, I suggest that now is a great time for all non-profit board members - and executive directors - to remember that the most powerful asset they bring to the board table is their voice. Use it. The Non-Profit Sector really needs to hear what you have to say.

After all, the last thing you want to have happen is to be stuck in the desert without any way of making fire because you allowed a strong and persuasive, yet wrong, leader to have taken you into that situation.

Don't Give Caviar to a Homeless Shelter

They say that "beggars can't be choosers," and I believe there is a lot of truth to that, however in brainstorming with a local nonprofit group, a homeless shelter, I was amazed at how the executives running that organization approach their donations. One of the ladies was a health adviser, and she was on the Board of Directors. She said that the homeless people needed to eat a proper diet so they can stay fit and trim, and healthy. In doing so, they would have fewer health problems to deal with, and they wouldn't bring their colds and sickness into the facility. Okay so let's talk about this for second shall we?

In Africa those running the NGOs have demanded that only natural crops be imported to feed those who are starving. They don't want any genetically modified foods. Still, using genetically modified foods we know that there are greater crop yields, and we can feed more people. Now let's go back to the "beggars can't be choosers" quote. If the local homeless shelter will only take certain types of food, then they reject donations of other types of food which are donated by local restaurants and businesses.

In doing so the restaurants have to throw away half of what they would've donated, and separate out those things which are on the wish list of the nonprofit group. Interestingly enough, this same homeless shelter never seems to have enough food. Don't you think people who are in need of food with no place to live would be happy just to have any type of food? Somehow in all of our political correctness and fuzzy logic, it seems many people in the nonprofit sector are missing common sense.

The other day I was explaining this issue to a friend, and I joked;

"At $400 per pound the caviar was some of the best in the world. Unfortunately, it wouldn't keep until the next departure for the ultra luxurious cruise ship. So, having about 1.6 tons of the stuff, they put it into a large pick-up truck lined and partially filled with ice and drove it down to the local homeless shelter to give it to charity."

The punch line is;

"The homeless people didn't like it, and therefore they threw it all away."

Now then, I don't know if you know this, but fish eggs are very high in omega-3, and such things can prevent diseases, sickness, and even cancer. Now then, rather than throwing stones at anymore nonprofit volunteers, because I wish them all well, and I thank them for their service, knowing that they mean well. I still ask that you please consider all this and think on it - we need more common sense in this space.

New Idea? Nine Proven Steps for Getting Board Buy-In

A nonprofit executive I met recently asked how he could get his Board of Directors to buy into the idea of starting a business. He characterized the board as old school and by the book. After we agreed that a risk-averse board is not inherently bad-and acknowledged that a board's duty of care requires members to exercise prudence in decision-making-I suggested nine ways he could prime the pump. Maybe they can help you, too.

1. Be sure that you're ready to move forward. As a young adult, I was sincerely convinced that my dad was the most negative person I had ever encountered. He shot down nearly every idea I had for bettering the world (and myself in turn). It was either unrealistic, too expensive, too time consumptive, or just a bad idea to begin with. What I didn't recognize until much later was the degree of wisdom he was demonstrating. In his words, "When you're enthused about an idea, it's easy to see only the positives and totally overlook the negatives. I'm helping you see the downside."

Having a profitable business may certainly be a great way to underwrite some of the costs of running a successful not-for-profit but don't be misled: getting to profitability takes a lot of hard work and perhaps even a few failures. Profitability also involves a huge commitment of resources of every type, and what involves you personally, will take away from the resources you can give elsewhere. Be sure of your own readiness for the venture before moving forward. Be careful not to allow enthusiasm to obscure what you see.

2. Be sure that you're ready to move forward. Don't go overboard here. Remember, you're seeking board concurrence; you don't have it yet. Save your time and energy for when you get the go-ahead. Do a simple pre-feasibility analysis of high-level strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis) to see if there is any critical element that would prevent successful operation. A good example is if your organization has a high debt to asset ratio. Piling on more debt would not be a good idea; therefore, further consideration of a business (at this time) would be ill advised. If, however, your pre analysis is positive, you can probe further with a more thorough feasibility study, which among other benefits can point your organization toward a specific matched business opportunity. Share both findings with your board when appropriate, but affirm again that your sole purpose is to keep them abreast of future potential opportunities. You are making no specific recommendations at the time.

3. Give your board time to process the idea of a business before putting a specific proposal in front of them. In my early CEO days, one of my board members often made the point that I didn't give them enough time to digest an idea before calling for action. Then, I disagreed-how much time does it take!? Now, with a bit more seasoning, I see that he was probably right. Consider for a moment how much time you have spent thinking about whether a business would work for your organization, the type of business you would like to start, potential costs and benefits, and a host of other things. Now, think about presenting all this information to your board in a meeting or two, and asking for endorsement. You will likely not get it. Remember, boards are caretakers of a public trust and as such, they tend to be risk averse. New ideas take time. Big ideas take even longer.

4. Share supportive information in digestible bytes. This is a critical step. Just as it is important to give your board time to fully consider an idea, it may be equally helpful to break the concept into smaller bits of information that can be shared over time. An example. In one of my first forays into starting a business as a nonprofit CEO, and knowing that one of my board members had already called me a money-monger, I knew that getting approval would not be quick. Over time, therefore, and as opportunity, I included articles on nonprofit business ownership with monthly board communications-some times not even mentioning. Occasionally, however, I would highlight a particular success story but not ask for board comments. My intent was simple: inoculate the board against the "strangeness" of owning a business that could produce net income to support programs.

After nearly a year and a half, I asked my board if I could have a sense of whether it would support a business venture if I could show that the business would be mission-consistent and revenue-positive? I had nothing particular in mind at that point. Not surprisingly, its response was a unanimous YES. They had been educated over time and were not threatened by how the question was framed.

5. Educate. Educate. Educate. I am making the assumption that your board is as yet not really aware of the net benefits of a business to your organization. Maybe they are not even convinced that a business is appropriate or legal for a nonprofit. Properly educating-over time-should deal with these concerns quite well. Here are some approaches that should work. Don't provide a treatise when a primer may be all that's necessary. Keep it short and simple and don't overwhelm with detail. (One of the mistakes we all tend to make as CEOs is assuming board members are as interested in our work as we are. They aren't!)

a. Discuss related versus unrelated business income.

b. Talk about the practical concerns that area businesses might interpret a new business as unfair business competition.

c. Share stories of other 501c(3)s that are operating successful businesses.

d. Discuss alternative forms of operating a business, e.g. LLC.

e. Invite the CEO's of nonprofits that operate businesses to meet with your board to candidly discuss their experiences.

Although you're eager to inform your board about all the benefits of operating a business, convincing them that those benefits can be yours too, will probably take time. Remember: plod, don't sprint. At any point your board believes that you are trying to force-feed a conclusion, your efforts are in real danger of being nuked.

6. Make starting a business the topic of a board discussion. Don't push for a decision; just discuss it. For me, the approach was all about more revenue predictability. I didn't like being tied to donor contributions that were beyond my direct control. What are your reasons for wanting a business? Share your thoughts. Perhaps even more importantly, give yourself the opportunity to hear from the board's collective wisdom. It just might be what you need to hear.

7. Identify trickle-down benefits to owning a business. There are many differences between the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds. I have a real sense that if each sector would study the other a bit more, both would be improved. For now, since we're targeting benefits from a for-profit business, here are a few that rise to the surface.

a. Greater focus on metrics and measurement of performance against budgeted expectations. Business has one goal: to make money. To achieve that objective, business owners and managers must keep a vigilant eye on their P&L, which is a proxy measure on effectiveness. The soft products of most not-for-profit organizations, however, make similar measures of effectiveness quite difficult. In fact, measuring anything qualitatively is harder than measuring quantitatively. Unfortunately, many of us tend simply to accept that we can't have good metrics in the Third Sector. Not so. They just take more effort.

b. Bottom-line emphasis. I am not referring so much to net profitability as I am to a laser focus on what is important. For the nonprofit, it is always delivering a service in just the right way and in the right amount to optimally benefit a targeted population in need. Although our motives are good, it is easy to get lost in a means/end displacement where we chase how well we do something versus the impact we are making.

c. More direct cause and effect. In the profit world, if we want to know why customer count fell last month, we carefully study a multitude of potentially causal reasons. Aha, we raised our fee! IF we must aggressively seek out cause and effect in the profit world just to survive, wouldn't it be great to think that some of that disciplined mindset might very well spill over into our nonprofit management as well?

d. Quicker feedback loop. I can think of nothing that's more destructive to good nonprofit metrics than the lengthy delay between introduction of a cause, and its effect. That reason alone is a powerful disincentive to even establishing metrics in the first place. My point is this, however: if you know and use metrics in your profit making world, chances are good you'll use them also in your not-for-profit world.

8. Communicate from an open mind. Maybe this one falls into the category of street smarts, but if you approach your board with your mind already set on a new business, expect to fail. They will see you coming long before you ever mutter your first words. Remember, you and your board are in a partnership-for the good of the organization. As intelligent as you might be on your endeavor, there's wisdom in the multitude of counselors.

9. Keep at it. You are not in a sprint; you're in a marathon. Take a long haul approach to this matter and you just might pull it off. Or you might not. Either way, you and your organization will likely be better off.

Rus has more than 30 years as the chief executive of various public and nonprofit organizations. Over the past several years, he served as Chief Executive Officer for two nonprofit organizations. It was during this time that he started several retail thrifts and consulted with more than a hundred executives on numerous issues ranging from start-up to complex growth strategies. His substantial creativity and relentless pursuit of the exceptional helped him develop a unique expertise in the fledgling field of nonprofit business.

12 Tips to Help New Employees Feel Welcome

In the corporate human resources world, there's a new buzz word - "on-boarding." Oversimplified this refers to what happens in the employee's first few months on the job, that makes him/her feel welcome. On the whole, the non-profit world has not really given this too much attention; yet, at least. But when we take the time to look, it's obvious that on-boarding programs could make a big difference for non-profits, just like they have been doing in the traditional corporate world for 10 years now. The "big difference" refers to cost savings and improved program quality.

It seems pretty typical for employees in non-profits to go through a 6 month adjustment period, just like they do in the corporate world. Sometimes this adjustment is pretty smooth. Colleagues are warm and welcoming. Other times, the welcome is anything but warm. Newcomers have little or no contact with their supervisor; sometimes colleagues actually say things like, "you don't have what it takes to work here." So how is the newcomer supposed to respond to the family's question, "how was your first day at work?"

The first six months is critical. If you examine your turnover events you will see that if an employee can survive the first six months, there is a good chance they will be there for several years. And in the non-profit world where entry level turnover can be more than 50%, an employee who lasts 2-3 years can be a real asset.

Last December, HR Blogger Ron Thomas identified on-boarding procedures that organizations can do to help new employees feel welcome. These should be incorporated into a clear policy and procedure statement which articulates how the organization will help in the adjustment of a new employee. Helping new employees adjust is the organization's job and should not be contingent on the personality of the particular supervisor to whom the employee is assigned.

Here are some of Ron's suggestions:

1. Even before the employee starts, have a colleague-to-be send a welcome note or email.
2. If the employee is assigned desk and office space, make sure it is clean and ready including an initial stock of supplies.
3. Be there to welcome them on the first day (the most important of the employee's tenure) and introduce them to other key people they will interact with.
4. Debrief with them at the end of each day for at least the first two weeks.
5. Give them something from the organization to take home and share with the family; perhaps just a formal invitation to visit and get a guided tour of the organization.
6. Begin the process of setting long term goals and objectives.
8. Review the job description.
9. Conclude the first week with a lunch or coffee and donuts for the new employee and the assigned work group.
10. Have realistic expectations. In the first several weeks, perhaps the first several months, they may be able to actually contribute very little. A new job is one of life's major stressors and "first day jitters" may last quite a while. But nonetheless, make them feel welcome as a person so that later they are more inclined to really dig in.
11. Make initial assignments a combination of small and easy-to-accomplish to large and more complex; be ready to support their performance on the complex work and praise their accomplishment with the smaller tasks.
12. At least every 30 days make it a point to meet with the employee and assess their level of comfort with the organization. This assessment should include the extent of social comfort as well as comfort with the characteristics of the tasks assigned.

While many of the welcoming duties fall to the new employee's supervisor, the supervisor should not be left on their own in terms of how the welcoming experience is designed. Organizations must have a standardized way to help new employees feel welcome. Finally, recognize that the new on-boarding program will not be perfect on the initial roll-out. If 6 mos. turnover continues to be higher than you want, even with a new on-boarding program in place, collect supervisors in one room and make modifications. Their experience in implementing the on-boarding program will be invaluable when it comes to improving it.

5 Reasons Nonprofit Boards Stall - And What You Can Do About It

Have you ever sat down at a board meeting and realized that no one was excited to be there? There could be several reasons for that. Maybe it was the end of a long day for everyone. Maybe they ate too much for dinner and are tired. Or maybe, just maybe, it's something you can do something about. Maybe there's something that simply got sidetracked somewhere along the way that you can do something to remedy.

Here are five reason boards stall with a suggestion (or two) for each:

Group Think. Have you seen the studies that sent people out on the street to ask for help? An interesting situation unfolded. If there were just one or two people on the street, typically one of them would see what they could do to help. However if there were more than 2 or 3 people on the street, everyone appeared to wait to see if someone else would do something. In fact, in many cases, no one ended up doing anything. This situation often occurs in the nonprofit board room. Everyone is waiting to see what everyone else will do. One thing to try? Bring in an outside expert to provide a critical analysis of the situation. another option is to assign someone the role of the 'devil's advocate.'

Wrong People. When you were recruiting your board, did you ask them to be a part as a favor to you? Or did you ask them because you thought they couldn't say no to you? If you have the wrong people and the wrong skill sets represented, take a step back, identify what your goals for the board are, and identify the skills you need to accomplish that. Then look out in the community and seek out people who are well known and who are passionate about your cause.

Unclear Expectations. When recruiting board members it is tempting to minimize the commitment that will be required of members. The right people will still want to be a part, and the people who are only trying to fill their resume will shy away. Having clear expectation will help ensure you are recruiting the right people.

No Accountability. Our board members are busy people and its easy for things to slip their mind. Generally speaking, they appreciate check-in and reminder calls. Don't rely on emails for this. Just pick up the phone and call - or ask another board member to make that call. This idea has taken root and resulted in forward movement more than any other with the organizations I have worked with. Waiting a month until the next board meeting to bring something up again only results in things being delayed - or sidetracked permanently.

'Magical' Thinking. Growing up near a major tourist destination in Orlando Florida and having a mom who worked as a chaplain in the local emergency room opened my eyes to this phenomenon early. We would hear stories of people doing things that they wouldn't do under normal situations. Something about pixie dust perhaps. But sometimes, in the nonprofit world, we have our own kind of pixie dust. It makes us think that nothing bad can come to the organization we work with and that things will fix themselves. We must be proactive and not fall into this trap.

What other ways have you seen organizations stall - and how have you seen them overcome the challenge? I look forward to reading your responses!