What You Can Do to Save the Earth, Nonprofit Style

By | Nonprofit | No Comments

You don’t need to be a superhero to save the planet. NASA states that global temperature is 1.9 degrees F higher today than in 1880; 12.8% of arctic ice is lost each year. While some believe this is the result of natural, unavoidable cycles, no one denies that the activities of modern society have contributed pollution and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

There’s plenty that individuals and organizations can do to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce their impact on the environment. Nonprofits can be at the forefront of the conversation to reduce their environmental impact and lead by actions in the fight against climate change.

10 Steps to Take to Reduce Pollution and Waste

  1. Green your commute: The EPA states that the transportation industry, which includes personal automobile usage and other vehicles, is a substantial contributor to smog, soot, and poor air quality. Encourage workers to walk, cycle, or take public transportation to work.
  2. Allow telecommuting: Telecommuting could potentially save a lot of fossil fuels and reduce pollution emissions by allowing workers to remain at home and contribute their talents via technology. With so many excellent technology solutions including cloud-based programs, video conferencing, and more, there’s no reason why many jobs cannot be completed by home-based workers. If 32 million Americans worked from home, they would save over 74 million gallons of gas and the pollution created by producing gasoline from crude oil, transporting it to gas stations, and burning it during driving!
  3. Use energy-efficient lights: Change out older light fixtures for energy-efficient LEDs. Consider adding motion-detected sensor lights in areas that may go unused for hours each day, such as a lunchroom or storeroom.
  4. Change the thermostat: Install a programmable thermostat in your office and drop the temperatures during non-work hours to a low setting in winter and a higher setting in summer to save heating and cooling costs.
  5. Have HVAC systems serviced: If you own the building you work in or are responsible for the HVAC system, schedule regular maintenance, including changing filters and cleaning the system. This can improve the efficiency of the system and save on energy costs. Talk to building maintenance about your concerns if you aren’t responsible for HVAC maintenance and share with them information on how a clean system is an energy-efficient one.
  6. Reduce paper waste: Ask employees to scan and share documents rather than print them out. Use recycled paper and recycle wastepaper after shredding sensitive documents.
  7. Unplug electronic devices: Unplug computers, printers, and copiers when not in use. Make it a point to unplug everything on Friday evenings or before long weekends.
  8. Ditch the single-serve coffee: Coffee machines that use individual pods are convenient and give workers a choice, but also create a lot of waste. It might be time to return to the communal coffee pot.
  9. Eat local: Although not an office-wide initiative, encourage employees to choose locally grown foods and try to order lunches from places near the office to reduce the travel time and energy used to move food from one place to another.
  10. Consider a weekly potluck: A weekly potluck lunch would encourage employees to dine in and not use their cars to go to buy lunch. It’s a fun way to save energy from automobile use while promoting social time—and sharing good food!

Whether you’re a climate change supporter or skeptic, everyone can agree to reduce pollution and waste. What’s good for the environment is good for the human race and all who live on planet Earth. You don’t need to be a superhero to save the world. All you need are new ideas to take to save energy and reduce waste.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Just Say NO to (Certain) Funding – Why Turning Away Some Funding Opportunities Is a Good Idea

By | Fundraising | No Comments

Nonprofits are always seeking funds. Entire departments are established for fundraising. Yet some funding opportunities aren’t a good idea. Learning which ones to turn down and which ones to accept can save your organization a lot of time and debate later on.

Why Say No to Funding Opportunities?

Why turn away money? After all, aren’t all opportunities for funding good opportunities?

Alas, no. Here are some reasons why you may wish to turn down a funding opportunity:

  1. It’s a significant amount – but unlikely to be continued another year: Although a large amount of money may be useful to fund a major project, the lack of it the following year may cause a great deal of stress for your organization. It may be better to scale slowly than to use a windfall for a major advance, just to have it stall for a while.
  2. It is government-funded, but it is an election year: While that may not necessarily indicate change, if the incumbent loses the election and the funds are part of a controversial project, the funds may evaporate. The sudden loss of funding may negatively impact your nonprofit.
  3. Funds are restricted: Restricted funds have their place in any nonprofit, but if all sources are restricted funds, this can hamper the organization’s ability to achieve its mission. Without funding for overhead, marketing, and similar needs, programs do not have adequate support. All the funding in the world for a program won’t make a big difference if you can’t support it long-term.
  4. The funding source goes against your mission: You may not have pursued the opportunity, but it arrived on your doorstep. Alas, it contradicts vital aspects of your organizational culture or mission. That’s a good reason to say “no” to an opportunity, tempting though it may be. You must remain true to your mission for long-term stability and growth or risk alienating donors who also believe in your mission.

Saying no can be difficult. It’s hard to turn down opportunities, especially if you’ve been working hard to find new ones. Rather than worrying about turning down opportunities, focus instead on the better step ahead: preparing guidelines for funding sources so that your staff knows where to look, what to look for, and how to develop the right sources of funding.

Now Say Yes – Prepare Funding Guidelines

To prepare funding guidelines, you’ll need to work out which opportunities align with your mission. Then, examine how the opportunity impacts the bottom line, both short and long term.

  • Speak with your accounting team and finance professionals to discuss what, if any, impact specific types of funding make on the long-term finances of the organization.
  • Decide what portion of restricted funds should be pursued, and for which types of programs. Include this in the guidelines.
  • Examine how government-funded opportunities may or may not align with your organization’s mission. Then, develop written guidelines about the types of opportunities that are acceptable and those that are not.
  • Develop a plan for “gray area” funding opportunities. How should these be evaluated and by whom? Do you want to pursue them and then decide later on what to do if they should come through; or discuss as a team which ones to approach and which to decline?
  • Share guidelines throughout your organization. Review annually to ensure they continue to align with the values your organization holds dear and with the current plans, financial forecasts, and information at hand.

Passing up an opportunity may feel frightening, especially if your organization is desperately in need of funds (and whose isn’t?) By focusing on the “yes, let’s do this” and preparing funding guidelines, you can decrease the times you must decline funds and instead, spend energy wisely on pursuing valuable funding opportunities.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

What Impact Will You Make – Even After the Grant Ends?

By | Grant Management | No Comments

Before submitting a grant application, ask yourself one question: Have I demonstrated how the funds would make an impact even after the urgent need is satisfied?

Most nonprofits focus on their immediate, pressing needs when completing grant applications. That’s natural: when you have a leaking roof, a new program to fund, or a dire need for cash flow, submitting a grant pitch that heavily emphasizes the urgency of the needs at hand is common.

But consider the viewpoint of the grantor or foundation. They want to know not just what the funds will do today but the impact they can make for years to come.

It is this intersection of satisfying an immediate need with producing a sustainable future result that makes a big difference when applying for grants.

Providing for the Future: 3 Scenarios and Examples

Grant applications must include many points, including both the current and future impact of the funds. To improve your applications for funding, ask yourself the following:

  • What is the immediate effect of these funds?
  • What will the impact be one year from now?
  • What will the impact be five years from now?
  • Can the impact be sustainable without the infusion of additional funds from the grantor?
  • Does the future impact align with the goals and mission of the grantor?

It can be challenging to imagine how funds received today for an immediate need will carry over into the future after a grant ends. There are different ways to make this point to grantors depending on the type of funds sought, the nonprofit’s mission and need, and the grantor’s mission. The better the alignment among need, nonprofit, and grantor mission, the higher your chances of securing funds.

Here are three examples that show how the alignment may work and how different needs can translate into future impact.

Example 1: Homeless shelter pitch for a new fire suppression system.

A homeless shelter requires funds to replace an outdated fire suppression system. Without the new system, the city will revoke their permits, and the shelter will close. The shelter needs $150,000 in grant funds to improve the fire suppression system in the existing building.

The grant application may cover the following:

  • Immediate need: Without the new fire suppression system, the city will force us to close. If we close the shelter, hundreds of men and women may lack basic shelter on cold nights.
  • Future impact: If we are awarded the funds and can install the new system, we can keep our doors open for at least another five years when our lease runs out. The effect will be significant upon several hundred people we serve in the city.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor’s mission is to support programs that serve the basic needs of people for food, water, and shelter. The alignment between the immediate need, the future impact, and the mission should be made clear.

Example 2: A therapeutic horseback riding program seeks funds to build an indoor arena.

An indoor horse arena provides a covered space for horseback riding activities. It enables people to ride horses in inclement weather and to continue lesson programs despite the snow, rain, cold, or excessive heat.

A therapeutic horseback riding program that helps children with disabilities seeks funds to build a new covered arena. If they receive the grant, they will be able to hold therapy sessions six days a week and throughout all seasons.

  • Immediate need: It is clear to what purpose the funds will be used when they are awarded.
  • Future impact: To provide a thorough grant application, the therapeutic riding program should address how they plan to maintain the building. Perhaps a private sponsor has agreed to pledge funds for maintenance, or the organization intends to hold an auction each year to raise maintenance funds. The organization should state their vision for the future care of the building to persuade the grant organization that their donation will continue to make an impact in years to come.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor supports charities that benefit children. Demonstrating how therapeutic riding helps children with special needs can help secure the grant.

Example 3: A college nursing school seeks a grant for a state-of-the-art nursing lab simulator.

A small liberal arts college seeks funds to build a nursing lab simulator. Such simulators include hospital beds, equipment, and realistic dummies that enable student nurses to practice vital skills before embarking on actual hospital rotations with their instructors.

  • Immediate need: The school should make it clear to the grantor how many nursing students each year will utilize the lab and the impact this makes upon their careers.
  • Future impact: Eventually, the effect can be projected to the number of registered nurses entering the profession and filling the nursing shortage nationwide.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor provides funds for health-related organizations. Grants for a nursing lab align with their mission.

Details Matter

When it comes to applying for grants, details do matter. Paying attention to all of the details in your application can make the difference between securing funds and scrambling for money. Many nonprofits neglect to complete the future-casting aspect of grant applications. By adding this vital step to your pitch, you’ll be one step ahead in the fundraising process.

Tracking Grants – We Can Help

The entire grant application cycle can be daunting. That’s why Welter Consulting offers help in selecting the right software to track, manage, and monitor the grant process. When you need to keep tabs on documents, applications, and possible future impact statements, keeping all the information in one place makes sense. We are here to help you with software selection, implementation, training, and audit preparation. Contact us at 206-605-3113 for a consultation today.

What Are the Most Common Fundraising Pitfalls? Here are Three You Should Know

By | Fundraising | No Comments

Fundraising ranks high on the list of a nonprofit’s priorities. Everyone wants to get better at fundraising; after all, the better you are at this critical task, the more funds you have to support your work!

Creative fundraising campaigns tend to get the publicity with writes up in your favorite nonprofit journals or marketing magazines. However, there are times when too much of a good thing can be confusing, underwhelming, or just plain wrong for your nonprofit.

As you consider your next fundraising campaign, keep in mind these three lessons from the world of fundraising. Keep them in a file of “what not to do,” so you don’t repeat the mistakes of others. Learn, grow, explore, and yes, test new concepts, but beware of these three fundraising pitfalls.

The Big 3 “What Not to Do” in Fundraising Marketing

Pitfall #1: Being so clever you miss the point and confuse donors.

It’s easy to get lost in a clever campaign. Perhaps you’re tired of the same-old fundraising campaign your organization has used successfully for the past several years, or you feel the need to try something different. That’s fine, but make sure the cleverness doesn’t outweigh the point of the campaign.

A too-clever campaign may rely heavily on puns, graphic gimmicks, or similar ideas to deliver its purpose. What ends up happening is that donors glance at the advertisement, experience momentary confusion, and set it aside. Instead of motivating them to donate, the ads gets tossed in the bin or ignored.

Avoid the too-clever trap: To avoid this pitfall, you can test the “clever” campaign against the tried-and-true response piece. See if the smart piece outperforms the stalwart marketing piece. Mail or send the same number of pieces to a split of your audience. This is called an A/B test and pits A, the clever campaign, against B, the tried and true one. Since you already know the average results of your tried and true campaign, you can see easily if the new piece outperforms it.

Another and simpler method is to show the piece to five random people, perhaps friends, family, or those unaffiliated with your nonprofit. Ask them questions: would they donate? Do they understand the point?

These two steps can save you from wasting time, money, and resources on something that won’t get you the results you desire.

Pitfall #2: Going overboard with design or enclosures.

Yes, it’s a time-tested nonprofit marketing tactic to include a small gift item to entice people to send money back. Stickers, stamps, a notepad, a pen, these are all fine…to a point.

But if your charity is asking for money, consider the impression these gifts make. Are they useful items? Are they expensive items? If so, they might be perceived as frivolous expenses instead of a simple gift.

Another way in which nonprofits sometimes go overboard is by using paper or design that appears expensive. “What!” you may argue. “That paper was much less expensive than the other kind we used to use, and it looks so elegant!”

That may be true, but potential donors only see the surface. They understand what appears to be a very expensive mailer and may perceive that you are ‘wasting’ money on marketing. Err on the side of caution and ensure that your designs reflect the spirit of your nonprofit.

Pitfall #3: Amateurish design.

Design is more than adding photographs or using fonts to punctuate a mailer for effect. Too many colors, competing fonts, a smattering of graphics, and you could end up with a marketing piece that confuses rather than motivates people to act.

A professional graphic designer understands the impact that color, visuals, and type make on the page. Designers know where to put the call to action (the request for donations) and how to set up a mailing panel appropriately. Hiring a professional nonprofit marketing agency or graphic design skilled in designing for nonprofit fundraising is a worthwhile investment.

Nonprofit Fundraising the Right Way

Don’t let the mistakes of the past weigh you down. If, as you’re reading this, you see errors that your nonprofit has made in the past, note them and move on.

At Welter Consulting, we act as the bridge between your nonprofit and the software that you need to succeed. This includes fundraising software to track, manage, and measure the impact of donor contacts. We are here to help you with software selection, implementation, training, and audit preparation. Contact us at 206-605-3113 for a consultation today.