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Ruth Lando Interviews Allison Fine at the 2012 Fundraisers Forum

Local Writer Ruth Lando (left) Interviews Allison Fine at the 2012 Fundraisers Forum, State College of Florida, July 20, 2012

 

Author, speaker and social media guru Allison Fine gave her much-anticipated lecture at the annual Fundraisers Forum on July 20, 2012– a long-standing partnership between the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Southwest Florida chapter.

Mrs. Fine has been referred to as a nonprofit sector gem, and her talk “Turning Friends into Funders” addressed the value of social media in fundraising and growing networks. Developing a strong social media platform takes time, planning and relationship building, but the “return on engagement” as she calls it, is definitely worth it.

Social networks have always existed, and due to the advent of social media platforms such as Facebook and Linkedin we now have the ability to actually see them. Nonprofits can, and do, use social media everyday to build relationships and networks of people as advocates for their organizations. Thanks to social media, engaged supporters can easily share and spread a nonprofit’s message and information, creating unique connections and facilitating growth.

“Free agents” raise money and support for organizations they are not formally affiliated with. This term especially characterizes “Generation Y” and “Millennials”, people currently 20-35 years old who tend to be tied to causes, not organizations. Still, the fastest growing population on Facebook is over 55.

Often there is concern these free agents will distort the nonprofit’s desired message and image, which can lead to a sense of chaos from using social media. Fine advises against concern about regaining strict control at the cost of excluding advocates and their networks.

Instead, she wants people to think about the difference between controlling and influencing a conversation, and the ultimate effect it can have. Fine urges nonprofits to better inform, engage and listen to free agents, and recommends they “stop rowing and start steering”. It is the organization’s job to motivate and capitalize on ready and willing supporters.

Social media is an indispensable tool in building relationships. It is a common mistake to assume meaningful connections can’t be formed online. “Befriend people online as you would at a cocktail party!” Fine says. An organization should be an advocate for a cause and a friend to individuals, not view supporters as ATM machines. The pressure to fulfill short term fundraising needs frequently influences people to sacrifice long term relationship building. Social media functions as a catalyst for relationships, and it is the task of the nonprofit to cultivate these connections.

Whether you are new to social media or a seasoned participant, practice using online connection tools and experiment with what works and doesn’t for your organization. Fine’s advice is to “get in and play” in order to understand the power of social media. Utilizing social media will be essential for nonprofit success in the future. Over time, those engaged with social media will become loyal advocates and contributors.

Follow Allison Fine on Twitter at @afine, and tune into her monthly podcast, Social Good, for the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Rebekah Leopold

Guest blogger Rebekah Leopold is a recent graduate of Riverview High School’s International Baccalaureate Program and will be attending Boston University this fall to study Economics and Sociology. She is working as a summer hire for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

We love to provide support when nonprofits begin crafting profiles in The Giving Partner. One of the ways we do that is by showing how to convey information in a meaningful and impactful way.

Mote Marine Laboratory has created an exceptional example of how to effectively create a profile. I have highlighted some imitation-worthy sections of their profile and why it works so nicely. First, some general writing tips to keep in mind:

  • Be succinct. Brief and compelling writing is more effective than a lengthy narrative that may not be read. Much of the information is best presented as a bulleted list, such as the needs statement.
  • Make it clear. Many people who come to The Giving Partner to read a profile will not know much about the organization beforehand. Informative profiles clearly convey the nonprofit’s mission and impact.
  • Stick to the truth. The information given will be seen by funders, board members, donors, clients and the general public. Honesty and accuracy are essential.
  • Review review review! No one likes to see spelling and grammar errors. Ask multiple people to read your profile and give their opinion and impression. Is it succinct and clear? Is it compelling?

The impact statement in Mote’s profile is presented as a list, making it easy to read. The impact statement should include three to five concrete, specific accomplishments and goals of the organization that relate to the strategic plan.

The background statement is usually presented as a narrative and key components that make this section stand out are:

  • A brief history of the organization and its impact over the years
  • Emphasis on why the organization is important and what community needs it is addressing
  • Features that makes the organization unique

Mote also did a good job in highlighting their Programs. It is not necessary to list all of the organization’s programs; in fact there are effective profiles that only list one. Stick to including the programs that are essential to the organization’s impact. Mote shows how each program presented is unique and serves a different purpose, while being relevant to the overall mission.

The Examples of Program Success section offers an opportunity to showcase impact and successes. This should incorporate:

  • Anecdotes and stories: A meaningful way to convey results of the program on a personal and individual level.
  • Measured success: Informative and impressive statistics that can include how many people are served, the outcome of your service, or the growth and reach of the program over time.
  • Testimonials: Quoted or summarized from the program’s clients, demonstrating the impact from someone else’s perspective.

Remember, we are always here for help and support. The Giving Partner can answer general questions, help with writing content, and provide sample policies, plans or documents.

Thank you to Mote Marine for serving as a great example of an effective nonprofit profile.

 

Guest blogger Rebekah Leopold is a recent graduate of Riverview High School’s International Baccalaureate Program and will be attending Boston University this fall to study Economics and Sociology. She is working as a summer hire for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

The excitement of watching an organization in action can be the key to linking a nonprofit’s profile in The Giving Partner with the full portrait of its community impact.  Earlier this spring, Community Mobile Meals of Sarasota County completed its profile in The Giving Partner, and I recently took a trip over to observe the operation first hand.

Personal relationships, meaningful volunteer opportunities with a clear link to making an impact, and collaborations are at the heart of the organization’s success.

This long-standing organization, operating since 1972, delivers hot meals everyday to individuals who are unable to cook for themselves because of age or physical disability. Community Mobile Meals provides about 130,000 meals every year, typically more than 450 meals per day.

During my visit, I observed and participated in just about all aspects of their operation – from cooking, to packaging to delivering meals – and talked with Terence McGannon, the recently hired executive director.

One of the first things I noticed was the close and committed group of volunteers. I talked to one woman who had been with Community Mobile Meals for more than 20 years, and met many other devoted and enthusiastic participants. Seeing the direct impact of their work everyday is a real highlight for those involved.

Community Mobile Meals is also very effective in collaborating with other organizations to maximize the value and reach of their resources. For example, they partner with local groups to receive surplus food to use on a daily basis.

While helping Terry deliver meals on route 10B, I saw firsthand the kind of personal relationships Community Mobile Meals has with those it serves. Community Mobile Meals understands both the general and individual needs of homebound seniors and those with physical disabilities. I met one woman who was delighted and grateful for the happy birthday call she received from the organization. I listened as Terry talked about each person we visited and their unique story. In addition to providing food, Community Mobile Meals also provides an invaluable personal connection to its recipients.

Community Mobile Meals doesn’t receive government funding, so they can provide meals to people of all ages and regardless of their income. Terry stresses the significance and difference having a home-delivered hot meal can make to homebound individuals in our community.

Again, the strong volunteer base, collaborations with other organizations and relationships with clients at Community Mobile Meals are definitely something to admire.

We give thanks to Community Mobile Meals for its history of making a difference and for the growth in organizational capacity that’s sure to come as it expands, refines and develops new strategies in this high-energy philanthropic environment.

View it’s profile in The Giving Partner here.

Rebekah Leopold

Guest blogger Rebekah Leopold is a recent graduate of Riverview High School’s International Baccalaureate Program and will be attending Boston University this fall to study Economics and Sociology. She is working as a summer hire for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Our friends from Kerkering, Barberio & Co. stopped by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to give a packed room of community leaders tips about nonprofit financial management.

Though finance hardly encompasses the full picture of your organization, it can be a determining factor for receiving support as donors are increasingly showing a strong demand for more and better financial information.

The main topics discussed were:

  • financial statement basics
  • budget management
  • annual audit basics
  • the role of board treasurers and finance committees.

Financial Statements

When organizing financial statements, it is important to understand the difference between accrual and cash.  An accrual statement may be more accurate in reflecting the economic state of the nonprofit. With an accrual basis, revenues are recognized when earned and realizable, and expenses when owed and in the period in which the related revenue is recognized.

Nonprofits have unique assets and liabilities. These can include pledges receivable, gift promises, split interest agreements, liabilities related split interest agreements, agency liabilities and uncommon to for-profit corporations. Net assets are classified as either unrestricted, temporarily restricted or permanently restricted.

Contributions designated for a specific purpose or certain time period are temporary restricted until used. Contributions where the donor stipulates it must be held in perpetuity are permanently restricted.

Reserve Funds

It is beneficial to find the right balance for a “healthy” reserve fund. Often, the reserve fund may be too large and donors view the organization as having excess capacity and decide their gifts would be better served elsewhere. On other occasions, the reserve fund may be too small and is prohibitive to future development.

A good goal is to have enough reserve funds to cover 3-6 months of operating expenses. Further reserve growth must be accompanied with a purpose in mind for future expansion. Typical revenue sources for a nonprofit are contributions, membership dues, program fees, fundraising events, grants, investment income, gain on sale of investments and revenue released from restrictions.

Budget Management

The budget should be viewed as a tool to help transform goals and objectives into realized outcomes. It aids in prioritizing and understanding programs which can be realistically pursued with the available resources in order to achieve the organization’s mission.

When creating a budget, it is important to consider upcoming changes in the economy, the community and in laws that may affect a nonprofit. It is often more valuable to have current and reasonably accurate financial information than old and very accurate information.

Audits

Auditing basics were briefly discussed, particularly the difference between audits, reviews and compilations. Not every organization will need an audit. Typically larger nonprofits and those receiving grants need to be audited by an independent CPA firm. Reviews and compilations provide slightly less assurance, and can be performed instead of audits.

Board Treasurer & The Finance Committee

The final topic was the roles of the board treasurer and finance committee. These roles can vary according to the organization’s size, regulations and other factors. Generally, the board treasurer is a person with financial expertise who will set a tone of integrity in regards to finances and will work with the management to plan and evaluate the budget.

The general responsibilities of the finance committee are to review and monitor the financial statement and budget, approve significant monetary decisions and set policies and procedures related to the administration, collection and disbursements of economic resources.

 

A big thanks to Rob Lane and Jennifer Glassmoyer at Kerkering, Barberio & Co!

Helpful resources relating to nonprofit finance:

The Nonprofit Finance Fund works with organizations to create lending portfolios for nonprofits.

Download Kerkering Barberio’s presentations for nonprofits here.

Rebekah Leopold

Guest blogger Rebekah Leopold is a recent graduate of Riverview High School’s International Baccalaureate Program and will be attending Boston University this fall to study Economics and Sociology. She is working as a summer hire for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.