Sunday, February 15, 2009

Taking Credit cards online

Here's a copy of the most recent TechSoup email on Nonprofit New Year's Resolutions--the entire series is great. Regular readers, and anyone in my presentations know I tell everyone to get online for donations with credit cards and PayPal.

Here's the skivvy from Techsoup.

#4 in a series of 7: TechSoup's special series of Nonprofit New Year's Resolutions continues with another common challenge and a technology solution. Since many of you are making commitments to go green in 2009, we're including simple ways to be more environmentally-conscious without breaking your budget.

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Boost Donations by Accepting Credit Cards

When someone calls your nonprofit, signs up at your conference, or stops by your charity event, do you make it easy for them to donate?

Your nonprofit or public library might think it can't accept credit card payments because of the cost. Or, you might be confused by all of your options for credit card processing, especially for donations that happen in-person or over the phone. Thanks to a generous discount from NPC, however, credit card processing is now within your reach and TechSoup also has articles to help you.

When you place a request at TechSoup, your organization can access discounted rates on credit card processing hardware and services from NPC. There are no monthly minimum transaction fees and you can freeze and re-start your service from month to month, a great benefit for minimizing your service costs. Your organization can also rent (at reduced rates) or purchase (at wholesale costs) card readers for in-person transactions.

Combined with your other fundraising efforts, this discounted offering from NPC could be just what your organization needs to attract new donors and more contributions this year.

    DISCOUNTED PRODUCT TO HELP YOU: For a $30 admin fee, eligible nonprofits and public libraries can access NPC's reduced rates -- on both processing services and equipment -- only available through TechSoup. (Eligibility details)

    GREEN BENEFIT: Holding a large fundraising event, while fun, uses many natural resources: electricity to light the banquet hall, gas for everyone to get there, and water to wash all those dishes. Make fundraising easier for you and the environment by scaling back on big events and letting donations come to you in the form of credit card contributions. Find additional tools and tips for greening your nonprofit through TechSoup's GreenTech Initiative.

    LEARN MORE AT TECHSOUP: Learn more about your options by reading TechSoup's articles A Few Good Methods for Processing Credit Cards and Getting the Best Prices for Processing Credit Cards.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What to do now, Part III

Last time, in What To Do Now Part II, we looked at strategic questions to financial (or other) crisis, and in this post, we'll look at some strategic responses. In Part IV, we'll deal with tactics.

To refresh our discussion--you have to start with strategy in any crisis. Stop, breath, think. Then, and only then, do. And in doing, start with the big issues, the big questions. I know you want to get down in the weeds and fix stuff....but strategy first. Here are some actions to begin with:

1. Review your mission and organizational values. What do these core guiding documents have to tell you about your path from here? Going back to mission, reminding everyone of what the point is, that's the place to start.

2. Review your strategic plan. What does it say about priorities, SWOT, etc.? Use the tools you've already developed. It will help you avoid knee-jerk responses.

3. Review your marketing plan. Who are your priority service recipients, your most important funders, your key donors? Again, this tool should tell you.

4. Talk to peer organizations. Are there group responses to your cuts that are appropriate or useful at this point? And, what are other groups doing to cope?

5. Talk to your state trade association or association of nonprofits if you have one. Again, what are other organizations trying to weather this storm.

6. Big question once those are answered: Given what you know, and what you predict, is there a need for long-term, strategic restructuring? This might mean casting off services (hopefully to another organization), or partnerships, or sub-contracting certain functions (payroll, HR) out, or even partial or full merger. Now is the time to start thinking about this, or to revisit it if you've considered it before. A crisis motivates boards and staff to do things that have been put on hold in the past.

Remember, mission, mission, mission. The point of any actions to take has to be to do as much high quality mission for as many people for as long as you can.

In Part IV, we'll talk tactics, and then in Part V look at a leadership checklist.

Hang in there.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Good website challenge

Here's a great idea that can be used locally everywhere if you can find a local tech funder for the challenge.

GREAT idea!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Different Generational Cultures

Just a quick break in the "What To Do Now" series of posts with a headsup about the February, 2009 Mission-Based Management Newsletter". The topic this month is about Different Generational Cultures. Here's some of the Management Tip:

"If your organization is like most nonprofits, you've been working on diversity for a long time. You've tried to make sure that your staff, your board and your non-governing volunteers look like your community. For some nonprofits this has been a pretty easy accommodation to better practice, while some are still struggling. But diversity is good: It gives us a better range of perspectives, a richer set of ideas, and a closer connection to the community we are in business to serve.

So, here's the question: what about diversity by age? Fact: Most board members in the U.S., Canada and the UK are Boomers, but our generations served range from Greatest Generation to post Gen@. Are your board, your management team, your non-governing volunteers representative of your community in terms of age? If not, why not? And, to be fair, you may be asking, who cares? It's just age, not ethnicity. What's the big deal?

The big deal is this: our different generations are really different cultures, so different that we see life at its most basic levels differently, we attack problems differently, we seek solutions differently, we manage differently, we look at work and the rest of our lives differently. And, as much as those of us who are Boomers hate to admit it, every day we're a smaller and smaller percentage of the workforce as more and more younger employees come on board. If we want to lead well, we have to understand what it takes to lead younger employees. If we want to attract donations, volunteers, board member from younger generations, we have to understand what motivates them and to do that we need their perspective; we have to embrace age diversify....."

To see the entire issue, including Marketing and Tech Tips on the subject as well as recommended reading, go to

And, if you like the newsletter, you can scroll down and see four years of past topic-specific issues and/or subscribe for free.

I'll get back to the "What to Do Now" series next posting.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What to do now, Part II

This is Part II of a series on what to do now. We'll get to that in a minute, but I have to mention the irony of my current big project, the one that kept me from posting for two weeks.

I'm working on a third edition of Mission-Based Management, which was my first book in 1993 and had a second edition in late 2000. My preface (and lots of the contents) talk about being a nonprofit in a booming economy with no federal deficits in sight, etc., etc., hahahaha, sob.

Of course there are a lot more changes than just that, particularly in technology, marketing and best practices (think SOX). But the big change is economic.

As an aside, I'm nearly done with the full rewrite, then I have to read it all again word for word, edit one last time and then I ship it to Wiley, and you get to see it in nine months to a year, after THEY edit it, I see it again, they set it, I see it again, and then they actually print the thing. As you can imagine, after all this back and forth, I'm so sick of my own words I never actually look at any of my books after they come out for at least a year.

But, most importantly, the writing and review has shocked/ saddened/appalled/terrified me as I see how far down we've come since 2000.

So let's get to it, and talk more about what you can do in the economic downturn. In Part I, I showed you signs of trouble that could be lurking in your nonprofit. In this post, we'll talk about initial strategic actions that should be taken, and then in Part III we'll look at some more strategic responses before we get to tactics.

Strategy first, though. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say. Strategy, Schmategy. I want to DO something, not just ponder.

I understand. As managers, and particularly as CEO's we are action oriented. We want to fix what's broken, get our hands on the problem and wring its neck, not sit back and think. But just as our management level jobs usually don't let us provide direct services, (and some of us miss doing just that), our responsibility in a financial crisis is to think first, then act.

Hence the strategic thought process outlined here.

1. How bad is our projected (or immediate) shortfall And, how bad it is really? The italics are there to underscore a key problem--people tend to believe what they hear and rumor abounds when things get tough. You hear from a peer CEO that the state is cutting everyone 25% and before you check it out with the state (and find it's "only "15%", you go to your board and staff in a panic.

Don't. Think like a journalist--it's not true until you have confirmation from two sources.

2. Is this shortfall short term or long term, systemic or incidental. Many arts charities in New York got a lot of their funds from Lehman Brothers, both the firm and the partners. The firm is gone and most partners are unemployed. That's a systemic long term hit. Was your charity golf tournament sponsored by the now defunct Circuit City? That's a long term problem. A large donor moved to warmer climes and you can't find her? More a short term, solveable problem.

Having said this, do not, repeat do not fall into the trap of believing that our current economic mess is short term. It's not. This recession (let's hope we don't get to depression) will last years, not months. SO you've got to think long term for most things.

3. Is your organization's viability at risk? Most organizations can cut back (if painfully) 10%, 15%, perhaps even 20%, and still provide some services. But at some point, and only you know where that is, it becomes impossible to for you to provide even minimum services and pay the bills. You lose too many staff, or cut too many services and you go into a domino decline. So, ask this question now. If the answer is truly yes, then the motivation to act now is even higher for everyone. Paul Light has said that at least 100,000 nonprofits in the US could fail this year and next--don't let yours be road-kill.

4. Are services at risk? This is a subset of #3. Will a 10% cutback cause you to eliminate any services completely? If so, you need to look at your strategic and marketing plans and see what they say about priority markets and established high priority mission.

5. Are there legal and contractual responsibilities in play? In some cases, eliminating service X means that you are no longer meeting the requirements of the contract for service Y or Z. Some contracts and grants link capabilities, accreditions, etc. Some disabilities groups have CARF accreditation, an expensive and time consuming process (and one that I fully support, by the way).But in a downturn, it's easy for someone to say--"Let's cut CARF!" and save some bucks. Except that having and maintaining CARF is a requirement of many government funds. Check the contracts you currently have now. Refresh your memory about what's in those contracts, leases, and other obligations.

Think these things through carefully and with your key staff and board. In Part III, we'll look at some strategic responses, then we'll move in Part IV to tactics.