Did you know that there are 23,000 nonprofits in North Texas? That’s a lot of competition for support, donations, and volunteers.
Most nonprofits already do a great job talking about their mission and programs. I advise nonprofits to make the case that they also are good stewards of donor money and time.
Thanks to a certificate program I am attending (see below), I wanted to share six small things that will help you better make the case that your agency is worthwhile.
Answer these questions about effectiveness:
- How would you describe the quality of the organization as an operation, not just of the program? What does it do well compared to what other organizations do? Please name your officers, directors, and advisory board members.
- What is the impact? Foundations especially want to know about impact (measured results) and accountability, leadership, and professionalism.
- What do donors and volunteers “get” for their money or time?
Three Documents to include on your website that you might not have considered:
- IRS Form 990 (read about filing requirements on the National Council of Nonprofits website)
- The latest Bylaws of the organization
- A one-page visual representation of your Mission, Vision, and Values. Most organizations hit one of these, but not usually all three. Or, their statement is kind of a word salad. It might be time to revisit your mission, vision, and values for clarity.
And another document — if you are asking for donations for a specific project (a building, facility, a new van), include regular progress reports. Stay in touch with your donors about your progress toward the goal (hopefully, you are sending out regular e-mail newsletters).
Spell it out:
Finally (this is the “Seventh Thing” but it could be several items) … could your website, social media, and print materials be more specific about what you need?
How will the donor’s gift make a difference? Name dollar amounts. For example:
- $X will spay/neuter a large dog and provide parasite treatment and vaccinations.
- $X will give a student a backpack with school supplies.
- $X will pay for a full-time student’s community college tuition for a year.
Name several funding levels, ranging from as low as $50 up to $25,000 or more. Name levels higher than you think will ever get.
If you ask for money for a project or program, regularly update donors on your progress. For example, “We need just $X more to complete our project by December.” Give donors an idea of when you will use their gifts.
By the way… it’s election time (really?). Consider social media pitfalls:
You probably know that tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofits are not allowed to engage in political campaigns. You already avoid using the nonprofit’s social media channels for political purposes. However, I bet most of us have not considered how, as board members or employees, our personal social media accounts might jeopardize our organizations’ tax-exempt status.
If you often use your personal social media profile to publicize your nonprofit (asking for donations, seeking volunteers and participants for events, etc.) — keep doing it! We find the best supporters within our personal and business networks. However, with election time coming, be careful about also using your personal social media networks to engage in political campaigns or endorse a candidate. Yes, I am talking about personal accounts, and I had never thought about this either.
In short, the IRS rules for tax-exempt nonprofits are:
- Advocacy (advancing general causes) is allowed
- A small amount of lobbying (generally accepted to be around 5% or less of your budget) is permitted.
- Engaging in political campaigns is not allowed.
IRS punishment is rare, but nonprofits depend on the public’s trust and should obey both the spirit and letter of the law.
If you need help with your messaging, please feel free to contact us.
Thanks to the instructors in my current Nonprofit Management Certificate program from the Center for Nonprofit Management in Dallas for giving me this food for thought. I will be sharing more of my takeaways from this excellent program over the next few months. I encourage you to check out their education schedule — any board member or nonprofit employee will find something useful.