Show Me the Results! Evaluating the Impact of Your Work

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

You’re a mission-driven organization. You focus on shaving costs without sacrificing services so that you get the most bang for your donor’s buck.

Yet there’s one final puzzle piece that donors look for: IMPACT.

What is the impact of your work? What results are you delivering? How can you quantify them?

These are important questions that investors, donors, and granting organizations want answered. Yet answering such questions is challenging.

Measuring Impact

Nonprofits who fail to answer these questions leave themselves open to criticism and suspicion. Yet it can be challenging, as well as expensive, to have an independent auditor fully evaluate the impact that your organization’s programs and services make on your constituents.

There is a middle ground between answering the impact question and avoiding it. Several tools exist to help nonprofits demonstrate a commitment to making an impact and using funds wisely towards fulfilling their mission.

  • Impact Matters: Impact Matters offers a simple and free tool to quantify the impact that nonprofits make. With permission, the company also posts the results to Charity Navigator. This provides a clear signal to people searching Charity Navigator that you take impact seriously. The tool is relatively new, and may not be free forever, so you may want to investigate it as soon as possible.
  • Charting Impact: Charting Impact is a joint project of Independent Sector, GuideStar, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance. It provides a questionnaire that helps you build a framework within your organization to measure the impact of your work. By using this framework and sharing the results with your constituents, you provide them with a transparent look into your organization’s education to making an impact.
  • Give Well: Give Well states that it is a “nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities through in-depth analysis.” The organization conducts its own research into the effectiveness of specific charities. Organizations which have been assessed by Give Well tend to see increases in donations, according to the site, because of the independent evaluation Give Well provides.

DIY Methods of Measuring Impact

Let’s assume you work in a small nonprofit. What are your options for measuring impact? You’re not working with multimillion dollar budgets or global issues; you’re trying to help clean up the local waterways, or reduce illiteracy, or find a safe haven for battered women. How can your nonprofit evaluate its impact?

  1. The first step is to have a solid mission statement. The mission statement of your organization is more than just a nice paragraph to recap your organization’s purpose. It should be the yardstick by which you measure all new activities and expenditures. Dust off your mission statement and review it.
  2. Next, decide the “how”. How will you achieve your mission? List the programs and services that your organization participates in that support its mission.
  3. Now think about all the ways in which you can measure those programs and services. Perhaps it is the number of people served or animals adopted, the amount of trash you’ve cleaned up, or the improvements in the water quality. Quantifiable data is great (number measurement) but qualitative data may also be important.
  4. Record your improvements and establish a timeline by which you will measure them regularly.
  5. When you’re confident in your findings, publish them so that your constituents gain insight into your organization’s results.

You can’t measure what you can’t monitor, so don’t reach too high and pick things to monitor that are impossible to measure with any certainty.

And remember the importance of storytelling when it comes to making an impact. Yes, numbers are important, but so too are case studies, photos, and videos of people sharing how your organization has made a difference in their lives. It is this complete picture of both qualitative and quantitative data that helps constituents understand the full impact of your organization.

You make a difference. Now it’s time to measure its impact! Get started today, no matter how small or simple the steps, and gain confidence as you move forward. There’s no time like the present to start.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges nonprofits and solutions to help them find technology that works for them. We invite you to contact us for any assistance you need with nonprofit technology and business solutions. Call 206-605-3113 or contact us.

Does Your Internal Audit Include Cyber Security?

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

Nonprofit leaders know the importance of performing an annual internal audit. But do you know the importance of adding a cyber security audit to your financial audit?

Travelers insurance puts the cost of a data breach in a nonprofit organization at $221 per record, which doesn’t sound like much until you count up the number of potential records in your nonprofit’s files. Then you realize the eye-opening fact that you could be on the hook for thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars in damages should hackers get into your records.

But the cost to your organization doesn’t stop at monetary damages. There’s also the loss of trust, which is invaluable. It may take years to rebuild the trust damaged by a data breach.

Now you understand why it is critical to tighten up your cyber security. What better time to do so than when you perform an internal audit?

What Nonprofits Need to Know – and Do – to Improve Cyber Security

As you prepare for your organization’s internal audit, it’s a good idea to schedule a cyber security audit. Board members who meet to review the financial audit may also wish to review the findings from a cyber security audit so they can make decisions related to its findings.

To conduct your own cyber security audit, here are several suggestions.

  1. Review current cyber security plans: Depending on your role within the organization, you may be well aware of any plans in place to protect against or respond to a cyber threat. As your first step, take time to speak with your IT manager, CIO, or other technology leader. Ask all department heads to provide you with any information they have on cyber protection, training, or risk management. Once you have all the information, you can make a good assessment of what is being done to protect against cyber threats.
  2. Contact third party vendors: Third-party vendors who receive or manage any data from your organization should also provide you with details on what they are doing to prevent security threats. This includes the obvious providers such as cloud software providers but the not-so-obvious ones as well, like your mailing house, which addresses and sends donation solicitations, catalogs, and other direct mail. Other vendors may include the company you use for your email list management, website hosting, and similar third party vendors.

Once you’ve reviewed both internal and external security processes and precautions, you can make an educated guess as to your risk level.

What Next?

If you were buying a home, you’d want to know if it’s in a flood zone so you could assess the risk of flood damage and the need to purchase flood insurance protection. The same goes with cyber security threats; once you understand the potential risk and your organization’s specific vulnerabilities, you can take steps to protect against threats.

Some steps to take may include:

  • Implementing internal security controls over software and technology services. This may include authorizing only IT staff to download software, updating and enhancing virus protection, and keeping databases behind a secure firewall.
  • Requesting that all vendors provide you with security plans and protection, if possible, or at least an understanding of their security protocols.
  • Training your internal teams on how to spot phishing schemes and preventing common cyber fraud and crimes.
  • Finding a cyber security expert to work with or retaining a consultant in the event a breach occurs.
  • Purchasing cyber insurance for your nonprofit, a policy which would protect against financial damages and technology repairs in the event a cybercrime occurs.

The time to take steps against cybercrime is now, before it happens. You have strong locks on the doors of your office to prevent thieves from stealing your computers. Do you have similar “locks” on your data?

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges nonprofits and solutions to help them find technology that works for them. We invite you to contact us for any assistance you need with nonprofit technology and business solutions. Call 206-605-3113 or contact us.

Here’s Your Sign – Finance Department Problems (and How to Fix Them)

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

Everything looks rosy from the outside. The finance department, however, has trouble brewing just under the surface. How can you tell? Welter Consulting has the experience to see and fix problems where they start. The finance department of a nonprofit is often the most overlooked place. After all, it’s all about the mission – right?

Well, yes and no. Nonprofits need margin to achieve their mission: no margin, no mission, no nonprofit. The finance department is the team charged with planning and managing the financial resources of the organization. Without a well-run finance department, there will not be enough capital to run all of the programs, services, and other activities for the organization.

There are certain telltale signs of dysfunction in the financial department that we’ve learned to spot over the years. We also work with teams to identify problems and help them fix them.

Sign #1:  Unclear roles and responsibilities

Suzy handles accounts payable and any incoming checks, but John is the accounts receivable clerk. Oh, and he’s also in charge of petty cash and updating the finance software because he’s good with computers.

If that sounds like a mess, it’s because it is. Over time, many nonprofits find that roles and responsibilities shift and change. Instead of aligning people and roles, people are allowed to assume various roles according to their time and talents. New skills needed for the finance department, such as John’s penchant with computers, end up glommed onto current roles without rhyme or reason, except that the original person who agreed to accept the task liked the idea of it.

Unclear roles and responsibilities can cause many problems. If roles aren’t clear, it is hard to hold people accountable for them. This leads to blame and finger pointing, open-ended tasks, and lack of accountability.

To fix this problem, conduct annual reviews of job descriptions. Ask employees to update their job descriptions so that any new tasks they may have taken on during the year can be evaluated in light of their role within the organization. Once you get the big picture of who does what, you can determine if a new position should be created or if some other type of change is warranted.

Sign #2: Multiple General Ledger Accounts

This one makes our heads hurt: when a company ends up with multiple GL accounts because the GL isn’t set up to sort items the way the organization needs them. We’ve seen this happen when nonprofits attempt to force software from the for-profit industry to work for their needs; it’s a square peg, round-hole type of problem, and the fix often involves multiple GL accounts so that the final reckoning matches what the nonprofit needs. Unfortunately, what happens is a confused muddle of accounting that takes longer to untangle than it does to work with it on a productive basis.

Welter Consulting can help. We can match you with nonprofit software that works with your needs, not against them. And, because we have experience in the nonprofit financial and accounting world, we can straighten out your GL too and help you sort through any other accounting muddles created by ill-matched accounting software and needs.

Sign #3: Manual Processes

The computer sits right on the desk, with the accounting software open. The payables clerk writes paper-based checks. “It’s just easier,” she said.

It may feel more comfortable, but there’s the time spent entering the checks back into the accounting system, reconciling the bank account and everything else associated with paper checks, not to mention the time it takes to mail them. And the postage – did you know that the cost of first-class mail is once again going up?

Many nonprofits fail to utilize the technology available to them. We can help. We work with nonprofits to provide training and guidance on how to use existing technology, how to boost productivity through efficiency and better systems, and more.

Sign #4: Manual Reports and Spreadsheets

You have the computer programs; you have the data. But you’re still pulling data from the accounting program, importing it into a spreadsheet program, and manipulating it there to obtain the reports that you desire.

Sounds familiar? This is quite common but entirely avoidable. Most accounting programs for nonprofits offer robust reporting capabilities. If you’re not obtaining the reports that you need from your current system, it’s time to investigate new ones.

Spreadsheets are fine when you’re starting, but as your nonprofit grows, they are time-consuming and error-prone. Automated reports offer convenience, accuracy, and flexibility – if you have the right system!

Welter Consulting can help. We bridge the gap between people and technology and specialize in the world of nonprofits. Let’s discuss your reporting needs and find the right software for you. It’s faster and better than using spreadsheets, that’s for sure.

Sign #5: Lack of Goals and Objectives

Does your financial team have clear goals and objectives? You may have them within the department but lack alignment with organizational goals.

Yes, it’s great that you have your own team goals, but how do these align with everyone else’s? Consider the impact that financial knowledge makes on other departments. The more you share information, the better off everyone will be throughout the organization. Aligning your goals and priorities with the overall goals of the organization and ensuring that financial goals are part of every department’s objectives, as well as sharing the organization’s economic outlook with other departments, helps align the finances with the activities and vice-versa.

Do you need some help with establishing goals and objectives? We offer comprehensive business management and support for nonprofits and can help you develop goals, share financial data, and more. Training, audit support, and other nonprofit financial and technology services are also available.

Yes, there are signs that the finance department needs help. Fortunately, the fixes are at your fingertips, and if you need assistance, we’re only a phone call away.

Call 206-605-3113 or contact us.

Tips to Offset the Postal Price Increase

By | Government, Nonprofit | No Comments

Just when you thought it was safe to send out more direct mail, the United States post office announces an increase. This year’s 10 % rise represents one of the most significant price hikes in the cost of a first-class stamp from .50 cents to .55 cents per ounce.

For those nonprofits who use both DSCF (nonprofit bulk mail) and first class mail to solicit for donations, it’s a double hit: both first class and DSCF are going up this go-round.

Most nonprofits take advantage of the post office’s third-class nonprofit rate which saves considerable money on mailings. This bulks price must be obtained after securing nonprofit status with the United States post office and using a special indicia on outbound mail with a nonprofit permit number.

However, even with the nonprofit rate, the price of nonprofit bulk mail has gone up too, rising twice the rate of inflation from 4.8 to 5.5% for destinational sectional center facility (DSCF).

Save Money on Mailings: What You Can Do Now

It’s a shame that the price increase impacts nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits remain one of the post office’s most prominent customers as fewer people send cards, letters, and other mail via first class, relying on email and texting instead.

But what’s done is done, and now is the time not to complain but to act to reduce the cost of mailings. Here are a few steps you can take to keep prices down:

  1. Clean up your mailing lists: Work with a mail service provider or list vendor to clean your lists. The mailing list should be cleaned annually of old, unusable addresses, incomplete addresses, returned mail, and duplicate mailings. Mailing list data handlers can access files from the post office of people who have moved or died during the past year; they can then update those who have moved and remove the deceased persons from your mailing list. This alone can update a list so that less mail ends up in the trash or undeliverable.
  2. Stop sending trinkets: Although many nonprofits send items such as stickers, cards, and pens to potential donors, these add to the cost of the mailing. Instead of sending return address labels, consider uploading something printable to your website and inviting people to download it. Not only will you save on the cost of outbound postage because the envelopes weigh less, but you can track the open rate of your letters by determining the percent of recipients who received the letter and downloaded the freebie.
  3. Talk to your printer: Printing companies offer people who are experts at their craft and who can advise you on ways to reduce the cost of your mailings. For example, an experienced printer can suggest an alternative paper for your printing job that cuts the weight down of each envelope and reduces the cost per piece. Printers can also recommend the best times to mail so that your nonprofit mail isn’t swimming against the tide of high volume or better ways to batch your mail so that you achieve the maximum postal discounts possible.
  4. Improve your ROI: As costs of direct mail increase, the need to achieve a mailing ROI increases. To improve your direct mail, consider A/B tests, which test a control (a mailing package with a known response rate) against a test piece (the same package with one element changed, such as the design or the copy inside). By continually testing and improving with each mailing, you’ll be able to improve your ability to meet or exceed the mailing ROI.
  5. Increase online donor solicitations: Learn to use all forms of online donor solicitations from better email outreach to social media. Although direct mail remains a popular and effective method of meeting fundraising goals, the more expensive it gets, the more you may need to switch to online fundraising.

Although the postal price increase is a ‘done deal’ and effective in 2019, the impact upon your nonprofit isn’t signed, sealed, and delivered. You can affect and mitigate its effects by using these steps to counteract the steep postal price increase.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and software technology to help nonprofits be more efficient and effective. We work exclusively with nonprofits and have the experience necessary to help them build, grow, and develop over time. We invite you to contact us for any assistance you need with nonprofit technology and business solutions. Call 206-605-3113 or contact us.