Tag Archives: nonprofit

Social Media Policies – NPQ Newswire

Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, a thirty-four-year-old predominantly gay group with more than 200 performers, are using social media platforms like Facebook to voice their frustrations about the organization and its social media policies. The Chorale is not alone in its struggles to perfect a social media policy; many nonprofits are wondering how to write these short but complicated documents.

Social media policies are supposed to protect both the organization and the employees (or, in this case, dues-paying volunteers). When written well, social media policies provide the necessary balance of common sense rules (such as no profanity), organization specific protocol (don’t share confidential information), and overall guidance (be transparent). When written poorly, social media policies can lead to confusion and the perception—correct or incorrect—that individual rights are being curtailed. There are several websites which offer sample social media policies but few which provide accurate guidance as to what works and what does not.

Read the more about the case of the Turtle Creek Chorale and social media policies on the Nonprofit Quarterly website.

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Unpaid Interns May Be Too Expensive – NPQ Newswire

Summer interns: We love them and we hate them. But do we have to pay them? That is a question much debated. Most recently, that debate has been taken up by a federal judge in Manhattan, who ruled in June that Fox Searchlight had broken minimum wage laws using unpaid interns on the set of Black Swan. This ruling, which may or may not be overturned upon appeal, signals that the legal and financial risk of unpaid interns may be greater than previously considered.

Read my newswire to discover why: http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/22569-unpaid-interns-may-be-too-expensive.html

Problems Migrate: Lessons From SF’s Homeless Population Survey – NPQ Newswire

While San Francisco city officials are undoubtedly celebrating the drop in the homeless population from 6,455 in 2011 to 6,436 in 2013, which is largely attributed to the city government’s commitment to permanent supportive housing, the demographic questions included in the Biennial Homeless Count offer lessons for the rest of us.

For the first time ever, San Francisco collected demographic information about the sexual orientation of homeless individuals. The survey reported that almost a third (29%) of respondents self-identified as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning). This figure is most likely higher than the general population; Alfred Kinsey argued 10% of the population is gay or lesbian, and other studies have reported even smaller percentages.

It is no secret that San Francisco is an LGBTQ-friendly place, and it is not surprising the LGBTQ homeless count might be high. However, there is a deeper lesson for nonprofits across the country.

Note: This is part of a newswire I wrote for the Nonprofit Quarterly. To read the full post, please click here.

Welcome to the World of Nonprofit Regulation

I’m dizzy. As I look at the myriad of regulatory bodies and try to make sense of the maze that is nonprofit accountability, I am stunned anyone would want to start a nonprofit.

Run. Run fast.

For those of you brave enough to stay, you’re in for a wild journey. Nonprofit management is not about the warm, fuzzy feelings of “doing good.” No way. The administrative expertise needed is becoming increasingly more complex and more professional every day. You may find yourself working with state sales tax issues one day, third party rating systems later that day, and fielding a late afternoon call from the TV station asking for a quote about the latest charity scandal.

The responsibility — and the power — of the nonprofit executive is in the ability to make sense of all of this, educate the Board, the public, and the staff, and, somehow, still make a difference in the lives of your clients.

It’s not for the faint of heart. Here is a broad overview of the major regulatory channels or levels.

Channels of Nonprofit Regulation

Mandatory Regulations: Nonprofits have a series of requirements they must fulfill at the federal and state levels. For example, incorporation, registration, tax accounting,  as well a myriad of policies including conflict of interest, whistleblower, document retention and destruction, gift acceptance policies, and more. Don’t forget the laws and regulations for employers (nonprofit and for-profit), sales permits/sales tax for those nonprofits who sell products. Plus, these laws can and do change. And, you also have to think about regulations  pertaining to your subsector and business activities. Deal with food? Don’t forget about the health code. Deal with medical patients or students? The law is very clear about privacy issues.

Voluntary Accountability: The Independent Sector has a wonderful compendium of standards, codes, and principles for nonprofit organizations. Many of these are opportunities for nonprofits to voluntarily hold themselves to a higher standard. Some, like the Maryland Standard of Excellence, come with certification. Others focus on subsector-specific concerns. Either way, it is a good idea to check in and make sure you’re up to par as a nonprofit and as a member of your subsector.  It would be wonderful if more nonprofits really understood and voluntarily committed to the highest ethical standards.

Third Party Standards: There are a host of third party bodies also known as “Charity Watch Dogs” that rate charities’ performance. These include the BBB, Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and more. There are many problems with these rating systems; however, they are a part of our lives and it appears they are here to stay.

See what I mean? Nonprofit executives are responsible for maintaining compliance (sometimes mandatory, sometimes voluntary) with more rules and regulations than we might have imagined.

Still committed to the nonprofit sector? Join the growing body of people committed to taking the sector to the next level of professionalism and accountability. Welcome.

 

Social Enterprise Meets Flipping Boston?!

Unable to sleep this week, I’ve taken to watching Flipping Boston and Flipping Vegas. These shows chronicle the process of entrepreneurs who flip distressed houses. Over the course of a few weeks, the houses transform from dilapidated shacks to pristine palace-like homes. And, of course, the entrepreneurs make a nice profit.

As I watch this, I have to ask. . . Is flipping houses a social enterprise?

Is flipping houses a social enterprise?

Is flipping houses a social enterprise?

In a nutshell, the criteria for social enterprise are:

  1. Profit motive
  2. Social mission
  3. Results/impact oriented

Technically, “House Flippers” would qualify. They have a profit motive (cha-ching!). They offer a social good (improved home prices, neighborhood beautification). And they have clear, measurable results (increased value of house and neighborhood).

But if we consider them social entrepreneurs, shouldn’t we consider all business as such? After all, the addition of any job to the economy is a welcome — and much needed — social benefit.

Yet many might take offense to thinking of “House Flippers” as social entrepreneurs. In some ways, so would I.

Something is clearly missing in our definition of social enterprise and it has to do with #2: Social Mission.

In the case of my late night TV shows, the social good is there. The neighborhood looks better. Property values increase for all residents.  The construction provides job opportunities. However, the social good is a byproduct of the profit motive. The entrepreneurs don’t (presumably) start out with the goal in mind to add value to anything other than their own pocket books.

I think we hold (or at least want to hold) social enterprise and social entrepreneurs to a higher standard. But how do we do this?

  • Should the social mission be more, less, or equally important to the profit motive?
  • Should the intended beneficiaries be consulted?
  • Should the entrepreneurs do market research regarding the need they attempt to fulfill?
  • Should the entrepreneurs do market research into other organizations attempting to meet the need both locally and across the country?

These are the kinds of questions I ask myself every day.

Our current definition of social enterprise needs to stretch enough to encompass the moral and ethical implications of doing good. Yet stretching the definition is not as easy as it looks.

3 Lessons from the Peace Corps

This week is National Peace Corps Week and many of the world’s Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and returned volunteers (RPCVs) are sharing their stories. This past week was also a special week for my campus: USD hosted the international AshokaU conference for Changemakers. I had the opportunity to attend the TEDx event on Friday night where social entrepreneurs and education “futurists” shared their stories.  This woman sold chickens, killed and plucked on demand, out of her home.

In honor of both of these events, I thought I’d share the lessons I learned about changemaking from my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. I spent 2002 – 2004 as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in a little town called Sabaneta in the state of Santiago Rodriguez. My primary project was to create a business education training program for women with microfinance loans. I also worked with a local nonprofit organization to open a community-based preschool for low-income children.

During this time, I learned:

1) Go where you’re wanted, not just where you’re needed. Peace Corps only goes into countries and communities where they have been invited. Volunteers are matched with host country organizations that have invited the volunteer to help. The volunteers are placed in communities where the local leadership has agreed to and extended a welcome to the PCV.  As a result, the projects I worked on had unilateral and I also was assured that law enforcement would be friendly. (This was not necessarily true when I crossed into Haiti, for example.)

This simple lesson is profound. It’s about respect. As an educated person from the United States, I have no right to impose my views or ideas on people in other countries. That imperialism has happened far to often in our history. However, when invited, we can dialogue and work together in ways that are generative for both parties. The same lesson is true when I work with vulnerable populations in the United States.

2) Start with a cup of coffee. Even after being officially “blessed” at every level, it was important to start by getting to know those who lived and worked around me. For me, that meant three to six months of visiting the homes and businesses of the women I would work with. I sat on their front step and drank coffee. I helped them sell goods out of their colmado (small store). I watched them kill and pluck chickens for customers as they waited. As I did this, I was able to gain trust and come to understand valuable parts of the culture I would otherwise have missed. (But don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I still missed or misunderstood huge parts of the culture. To some extent, that is to be expected.)

This investment of time paid tremendous dividends when it came to designing a project that worked and that was embraced by the community.

3) Look deeply. I hit many bumps along the road. My microfinance project partner wasn’t as gung-ho as I wanted him to be. The teachers in the preschool kept playing with the toys. As much as I wanted to mange these problems and make them go away, they could only be solved by looking. The first class of kids for the preschool program. They are playing in a small sandbox outside.

I had to look deeply at my project partner’s life. He spent 8 – 10 hours a day on a motorcycle driving up and down bumpy, dusty dirt roads. His kid was sick and he only had enough money for diapers for special occasions. Of course he didn’t want an additional thing (me!) added to his plate. Of course he was defensive at first. I needed to back off and give him a greater sense of ownership in the project.

I looked deeply at the teachers in the newly founded preschool. I saw that, like the children they served, they had never seen toys like this. They had never painted or drawn as freely as we encouraged. They had never dug through a sandbox. Of course they were more interested in playing than teaching. Of course they had trouble adjusting to a fixed schedule. These things were foreign to them and I needed to adjust.

These are just a few of the lessons I learned during my two years in the Dominican Republic. They’ve guided my career as I work today with nonprofits.

5 Quick & Effective Nonprofit Communication Ideas

It’s a simple recipe. Nonprofits start “cooking” when they establish a mission. Then, in order to achieve that mission, they add healthy servings of potential donors, volunteers, and community members.   These stakeholders are what make the dish come alive. They are essential in the same way flour is essential baking bread. But, we need more. We have the ingredients but we need a space where the two—the mission and the stakeholders—can come together. This “space” is usually called a kitchen. In the nonprofit world, I call it the Communications Plan.

The Communications Plan tells us what, how, and when we will share our message with the larger community. It answers core questions such as:

  • Who are we trying to reach? (also known as your target audience)
  • What is the core problem we are solving and how do we want to frame the issue?
  • What are our key messages?
  • When/how do we interact with the media? Who is responsible?
  • What communication tools (social media, newsletters, etc.) do we use and how often?
  • Who is responsible for interfacing with the public?

For a quick template, click here.

Communication and PR strategies can make a big difference.  Even when there isn’t much in the budget for communication strategies, nonprofits can still have an impact.

5 Quick & Effective Ideas:

1)      Teach board and staff how to speak about your agency. The people that are close to the organization—staff and board—are already talking about you. Do you know what they are saying? If not, then share with them your key messages. Write out those messages and offer a training where everyone can practice. Make sure to ask them to add their own personal flavor. They can share a story that touched their heart or share about the aspect of the mission which is especially important to them. It’s much more powerful to hear someone when it’s obviously they really care.

2)      Tell stories. Stories are a powerful currency in the market of donor engagement. They can motivate us to give, to act, to share. By capturing and sharing the stories of your organization—the client success stories, the volunteer’s inspirational stories, the donor’s generosity stories—we can engage the community in a visceral way. Ask your staff to write down and collect clients’ stories. Keep these in a safe space so they can be used in enewsletters, appeal letters, media pitches, donor recognition letters, and so much more.

3)      Use a variety of the tools available. There are many new tools available through the internet which can make communication cheaper, easier, quicker, and more engaging. These tools can and should be used in combination with each other. Here are just a few:

  1. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (for great examples, look at Mama’s Kitchen, the San Diego Zoo, and the San Diego Opera)
  2. Nonprofit Blogs (for a great example, see San Diego Coastkeeper’s blog)
  3. Enewsletters (there are many inexpensive platforms such as MailChimp, ConstantContact, and VirtualResponse)

4)      Enlist your funders. Is one of your donors a large corporation with many staff? Perhaps they can help. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Ask if your staff can participate in their company trainings. This is free capacity-building for your staff.
  2. If they would share your information in their company newsletter (assuming the content is useful to their employees).
  3. Ask if they would share about you on their corporate social media accounts.
  4.  And so much more. . . be creative!

5)      Make friends with the media. Media is a great source of free exposure; however, nonprofits are sometimes afraid to reach out to the media. Their media outreach efforts may rely solely a press release during major events. This is good but not good enough. A better strategy is to establish a relationship with the media. Meet the reporters that cover your area and begin a long-term conversation. It’s a win/win: over time you provide them with awesome story ideas, they in turn offer your agency excellent exposure. For an example, look at what Voices for Children accomplished with their recent Op/Eds…. The bottom line is this: don’t just think in terms of press releases, think about an ongoing relationship.

Nonprofit communication strategies are not hard but they do require some thought.  When sitting down to map out your communication strategy, you can use some of these five easy-to-implement, inexpensive ideas to ensure your message is heard.

What are your ideas? Share them below or on www.Facebook.com/JennysJunction.

Do you know a nonprofit that does a great job at PR/Communication? If so, share their links here so we can all learn.