I hope you enjoy these local, state, and national nonprofit management resources to support your important work. Block out an hour on your calendar to take a look! Simply click on the hyperlink under each title or the title itself. Feel free to send me an email if a link doesn’t work properly, and I’ll reload it.
Tribal Organizations - Data & Resources
IRS Says Charitable Gifts to Tribes ARE Tax Deductible ITG FAQ #2 Section 7871-Contributions to Tribes Tax Deductible
2020 Federal Poverty Guidelines
2020 Federal Poverty Guidelines.
DHHS Federal Poverty Guidelines – https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines
Annual Planning – Tips to Jump-Start Your Year
By Becky Schueller, Rebecca Schueller Training & Consulting, LLC (Note: Updated Nov. 2019)
Make a commitment every year (a few months prior to the start of your new year) to give yourself the gift of time to devote to annual planning so you can implement basic practices to ensure that:
1) Your organization addresses its most compelling priorities
2) You have a calendar accessible to all staff and board members with dates for training, events, reporting deadlines, and other milestones to make the year flow more smoothly, and
3) You keep everyone in your agency pulling in the same direction.
Do yourself (and your staff and Board) a favor and decide that “you can’t be too busy to plan your work for the year.” Think of annual planning as self-care…for your staff, your board, and your organization. While this is an ideal activity for early November (so you can get draft calendars out to your board and staff for review and edits), if your agency hasn’t had time for this yet, text yourself or send yourself an email to schedule some planning time for yourself as early in January as possible…and set a date for a staff planning day or half-day so that everyone can contribute to the plan and calendar.
You’re the director, right? Give yourself permission to take a day…or splurge and go for 2 full days…to plan your work and engage your staff and board. You can take either a strategic approach or a simple annual calendar approach. Or, morph the two.
A Strategic Approach to Planning
In a strategic approach, you’re asking “What are the top three most important things your organization needs to accomplish that will help your agency move forward on its most important goals? Often these are steps that will improve outcomes for your clients & constituents and guarantee your agency’s sustainability. Perhaps equally as important is to ask yourself: “What Should I Stop Doing?”…aka “What Is your organization currently focused on that is not mission-central and doesn’t generate revenue or build stakeholder engagement?” It’s important to free up time and energy for your organization’s most important priorities.
Another useful questions is: “Who Else in My Organization Can Do This?” Think about both staff and volunteer roles. Even if you think your staff are too busy, consider that they may enjoy taking on a new challenge or the opportunity to learn new skills. Volunteers are sometimes unsure about how best to help you and welcome being asked for specific types of assistance.
You may also want to reflect on what you found the most frustrating or challenging in the past year. What can you change to make these tasks and issues work better in the coming year? Once you’ve established your priorities, consider how you will integrate these three priorities into your board and committee agendas and staff meeting agendas for the year. Sometimes it’s enough to create folders and draft agendas for your upcoming board and committee meetings, and then list the issue on a working draft of your agenda so you remember it as the meeting approaches.
An Annual Calendar Approach to Planning
An annual calendar approach is simply planning the annual calendar for your organization to ensure that important meeting/training/event dates are set and processes and procedures are noted. While you know the most common dates that need to hit your calendar, do yourself a favor and plan your family, vacation, and holiday time first. And make sure you ask your staff to turn in time off requests at the beginning of the year as well. If you don’t block off this time, who will do it for you? If your answer is “no one,” then make sure you do it. Instead of feeling selfish, treat this as self-renewal and self-care time. As a nonprofit leader, you need to consider all the human resources in your organization, including yourself! Consider taking an extra day or two around New Year’s so you have some self-reflection time and don’t immediately rush into the new year. This is one of the most important things you can do yourself…and it’s really hard for many nonprofit leaders. Make sure it’s on your annual calendar each year so you actually do it.
Your Annual Calendar List
To respect everyone’s time, make sure your board and committee meetings are scheduled a year in advance so volunteers and staff can plan around these dates when other issues arise. Worried that you won’t have enough to talk about? Remember, it’s easier to cancel a scheduled meeting if you don’t have important decisions to make than it is to schedule an unplanned meeting. Even if your staff meetings are always the first Monday of the month, list them out on your calendar so you don’t accidentally schedule a funder site visit or other meeting on top of those dates. Make sure you flag probationary period evaluations and annual staff evaluations you’re responsible for so you can send a job description (for the staff member to review and update) and a copy of the evaluation tool to staff members (for their comments and notes) two weeks in advance. While you’re at it, schedule your own evaluation with your Board.
Schedule major agency events
If you don’t have dates set in stone yet, block off the most likely dates or weeks the event is likely to be scheduled. Note annual meetings, conferences or annual fundraisers, your audit and your 990 Form submission and the board meetings they will likely be reviewed & approved at, grant deadlines, reporting deadlines, and other activities that you want to be sure you don’t miss. Is your organization planning a major website re-design or an agency video? Are you considering an annual report if you don’t regularly produce one? Make sure you block off time to work on the milestones needed to accomplish these projects or provide reminders to other staff or volunteers who will contribute to these projects! Send a draft calendar to your staff and ask them to add other important dates or tasks.
Financial Milestone Dates
Simplify your own follow up by asking your Finance Director to add major finance and organizational deadlines (and tasks completed) to his/her monthly financial reports…for example, the annual registration with the Minn. Attorney General’s Office, Guide Star updates, state and federal payroll taxes, etc. Don’t forget to have your Finance Director or payroll clerk send a calendar with payroll Fridays marked to your board check signers. Negotiate with your auditor to set a date when s/he can meet with your Finance Committee to review a draft of the annual audit. Ideally, this should be at least two weeks before the board meeting at which the audit needs to be approved. Make sure your auditor knows the date of the board meeting when you want to approve your Form 990 as well and let them know you need a minimum of two weeks lead time for your board and senior managers to review it. A month is optimal but in my experience it’s rare to have the luxury of a full month. Remember to upload your annual audit and Form 990 to your website and update your Guide Star account with these documents. And, make sure to back your budgeting up process up 3-4 months prior to the start of your new fiscal year. This gives time to get staff and board on the same page with a current understanding of your organization’s financial situation (i.e. a budget to actual comparison and a forecast to the end of the year), as well as determine program and agency infrastructure needs for the coming year. Then staff can begin developing cost projections. Make sure to document your financial assumptions behind costs. Simply use a different tab in the budget worksheet for a “narrative assumptions” document. Starting early also allows time for your Finance Cte. to review and recommend the budget to the board for approval and hopefully two board meetings for board review and approval (present the budget the first month and give a month for board members to analyze and reflect before asking for approval of the final budget).
Grants & Partnerships
Request MOUs & Support Letters from Community Partners: The beginning of the year is a good time to meet with your top 3-5 agency partners to review your partnerships and ask: how they feel things are going, if there are new things happening in their organization, and if they foresee any changes to the relationship. If your partnership is informal, consider requesting a simple one-page Memorandum of Understanding which outlines the responsibilities and resources both parties commit (3-5 bullets for each) and is dated and signed. Resources can be those you already each provide (staff offices/utilities/phone, meeting room space, etc.). Definitely request a support letter (get a current, annual update even if you have an older one) that you can submit with grant applications (or excerpt quotes from). Let your partner know any specifics you’d like them to include in the letter that are more compelling coming from their organization than internally from your own…particularly client/constituent/community outcomes they observe. Let your partner know if you’re considering strategic planning and would like their input, if you’ll be asking them to give feedback on your Evaluation, or if there are additional ways you’d like your two organizations to work together to leverage collective impact for your clients and constituents.
Keep a running list during the year of policies that need updating or new policies you need to add to your Personnel Policies or Financial Policy manual. My top current recommendations for needed policies that some agencies haven’t yet adopted are: a social media policy, a sexual harassment policy, and a medical marijuana and CBD oil policy. Most agencies spend 75%-80% of their budgets on staff…staff ARE the program in most nonprofits. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have policies in place that make expectations clear to staff so you reduce the time and pain and suffering that results when there’s not a policy in place and you have to clean-up a situation after the fact. If you don’t have a dedicated HR person in place, check out a professional membership in the Society for Human Resources Management. At approximately $220/year, it’s a steal for all the resources, templates, and free advice you can request. Visit www.shrm.org to check it out.
Stakeholder Engagement Meetings
If you don’t regularly report to your City Council, County Board, Rotary, and other funders and community groups on your work, start this practice in the new year! This is an excellent opportunity to present your Annual Report or outcomes from your most successful program(s). Share some basic needs data, explain how your organization addresses these needs, and use compelling internal data from your program and grant reports to make the case that you achieve important client outcomes and generate positive return on investment. Feel free to share the amount of funding you leverage from outside your community to do your important work, and the amount of funds you return to the community in payroll.
Some funders rotate their meetings around the state to visit different communities. Ask if your funders do this and offer to serve as the “local host” for their meeting…which usually means that you recommend a venue and/or caterer and join them for a brief report on your agency’s work. If your funders don’t do this, inform them that you have a great client story to share, as well as good data on program outcomes, and you’d be happy to present at a board meeting, retreat, or other event. If your funder is several hours away, let them know dates you’ll be attending other meetings or events and could be available to meet with them.
Collect Client Stories, Artwork, Photos & Video Clips
Don’t forget to remind your staff (at every staff meeting!) to be collecting these items on an ongoing basis. It is often difficult to scramble at the last minute to get these items for an annual report or agency holiday card. You want to have these materials on hand at all times…you never know when it will be useful to include a client story or photo in a report, in PR materials, or other agency documents. A holiday card designed by one of your clients is warm, personal, and eye-catching to your donors and other stakeholders. While it is always prudent to get a signed Photo or Story Release, also ask your volunteers to help take photos at agency public events. With the advent of smart phones, video clips are easy and can sometimes tell a funder your agency’s story in a much more compelling way than a grant proposal. Ask staff to invite clients to share stories and get signed releases.
It’s very helpful to have everyone in the agency on the same page. Yet, nonprofit directors and managers are always busy…and EVERYTHING seems important. This mitigates against dedicating time to plan your work. Paradoxically, it also makes it critically important that you “Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan.” Remember, it’s self-care for you and your staff and board.
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The Board Chair’s Job Description by Becky Schueller, Rebecca Schueller Training & Consulting https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/board-chairs-job-description-rebecca-becky-schueller/
Top 6 Ways a Board Can Help its CEO – GuideStar article by Bill Hoffman https://trust.guidestar.org/top-6-ways-a-board-can-help-its-ceo?
Evaluating the Executive Director by Jan Masoka, Blue Avocado (see Jan’s excellent argument that the Executive Director is different from any other staff evaluation – it is about organizational performance) https://blueavocado.org/board-of-directors/evaluating-the-executive-director/
How Should Staff Input Be Used in the Executive Director Evaluation? by Becky Schueller, Rebecca Schueller Training & Consulting https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-should-staff-input-used-executive-director-schueller/
CEO Compensation Checklist – https://boardsource.org/ceo-compensation-checklist/
Form 990 Checklist (another great resource from Board Source) https://boardsource.org/form-990-checklist/
Articles of Incorporation: Have you updated your Articles of Incorporation recently? Do this when your address, primary organizational contact, purpose, or status as a member organization changes. Protect your board members by adding an indeminification clause. For help, visit http://www.minnesotanonprofits.org/nonprofit-resources/start-a-nonprofit/samplearticles.pdf
Changes to By-Laws: Did you report it on your Form 990 when you made changes to your By-Laws? This is required and can usually be done when the Form 990 is submitted. If the changes are major, it’s best to report changes right away to the IRS.
Before You Start Strategic Planning…by Rebecca Schueller, Rebecca Schueller Training & Consulting https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/before-you-start-strategic-planning-rebecca-becky-schueller/
Strategic Planning: Engage Your Stakeholders! by Rebecca Schueller, Rebecca Schueller Training & Consulting https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/strategic-planning-engage-your-stakeholders-rebecca-becky-schueller/
Article Recommendation: Charting a New Path Forward: Insights and Reflections on the Strategic Planning Process from BoardSource https://boardsource.org/resources/insights-reflections-boardsource-strategic-planning/
Simple is Best for Strategic Planning by Rebecca Schueller, Rebecca Schueller Training & Consulting https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/simple-best-strategic-planning-rebecca-becky-schueller/
Joan Garry's Blogs (Becky's choices of Joan's humorous and on-point nonprofit management blogs)
Visit https://www.joangarry.com/ for great resources that will make you laugh!
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
Visit www.minnesotanonprofits.org/Resources for more excellent articles and resources to support your work.
Minnesota Council on Foundations
Visit https://mcf.org/directory for easy access to grants in Minnesota to support your work.
The Grantsmanship Center (California)
Propel Nonprofits (Twin Cities): financial management resources