These past weeks have been tough. Wildfires coming on the heels of hurricanes, followed by more gun violence, more revelations of sexual harassment, and continuing evidence that an overall lack of civility and respect threaten to dominate our national dialogue forever. Nonprofit leaders may also be worrying about donor fatigue as a result of so many urgent needs, or concerned that passion for the mission is compromised by a scarcity mentality.
That’s why we urge everyone to pause to celebrate ALL THE GOOD that nonprofits are doing. This mindset of gratitude could not have been better modeled or expressed than by CalNonprofit’s lovely tribute, Wine Country Nonprofits Act Fast and in Ways Only They Can. And, of course, there’s the viral video created by the Community Action Partnership of Strafford County, a New Hampshire organization, that can help us all find the FUN in fundraising!
As we approach Giving Tuesday, November 28, we know your nonprofit will be thinking about how to encourage donations to support its work. Let’s all pause – ahead of the busy “giving season” – to look around us, thank our colleagues, recognize their hard work, and just feel grateful: Grateful that we work in a mission-oriented environment, grateful that so many people care enough to do the hard work needed to change the world, and grateful for those who share our vision and support our work.
The first blow of potential tax reform policies hit last week. This process is ongoing and will be shaped by many negotiations happening right now on Capitol Hill. While no one knows what the final product will look like, what we see so far is gruesome. Perilous provisions in the House tax bill, and what we expect will likely be in the Senate’s version, could radically transform the work of nonprofits in communities across the country.
The National Council of Nonprofits’ statement, Nonprofits, and the Nation Cannot Afford This Proposed Tax Plan, sums up the House’s proposal. For more details, this boiled-down guide to what’s in the House tax bill is designed to help nonprofit leaders prepare their nonprofits for what lurks ahead. Most important: once you dig into the Good, the Bad and the God-Awful of the House bill, we think you will be so concerned about your nonprofit’s mission, and those it serves, that regardless of which political party has your loyalties, you will want to – and should – make sure that every staff member, every board member, every individual donor, every volunteer, every vendor, and every ally your nonprofit has – calls her or his Representative and Senators. The House Ways and Means Committee continues work on this bill today, so don't delay!
You are not alone in wrestling with how tax policy impacts your nonprofit. The National Council of Nonprofits and the state associations in our network are keeping tabs on the developments and sending out updates to help you see the implications of the proposals for your work and the people your nonprofit serves. You can stay on top of these and other significant issues by joining and supporting your state association of nonprofits, and by following the National Council of Nonprofits on social media @NatlCouncilNPs.
Do you have a board that has been a REAL CHAMPION advancing your nonprofit’s mission – more than just by writing checks? Do your board members understand that advocacy is not a dirty word - in fact, do they include advocacy as an expectation for board effectiveness? If you’ve ever wanted to celebrate your board's advocacy achievements in a BIG way – now’s the time! BoardSource, a national nonprofit that inspires and supports excellence in nonprofit governance and board and staff leadership, has announced a new initiative: The Stand for Your Mission Awards. This is your chance to share your board’s advocacy success story through a simple online nomination form. You can also upload photos/video of your board’s advocacy in action, share testimonials about your board’s advocacy achievements, and relate stories that characterize how the board’s advocacy made a difference for your nonprofit’s mission. Looking for a way to recognize a GREAT board and model the way for others to be advocates, too? This is it! The Stand for Your Mission founding partners (of which the National Council of Nonprofits is one) will announce the winner(s) in 2018. And if your board is not yet ready to embrace advocacy as a core responsibility, you can use the terrific discussion guide and other Stand For Your Mission materials to help your board become comfortable with advocacy.
The National Council of Nonprofits and its network of state associations of nonprofits are well known for promoting and educating nonprofit staff and board members about best practices. We also recognize that when your nonprofit’s finances are tight, and all the staff and board members are stretched thin, the operating environment feels as if you are “drinking out of a fire hose.” Many nonprofits and their leaders prefer DOING, rather than examining the process of how the doing gets done. But, there are risks to not pausing and asking, “How are we doing? Are we making a difference?” Asking these questions, and making a commitment to improvement, are steps that can help every nonprofit thrive and grow into a more influential force for good, whether the nonprofit is large or small, established or just starting out.
Speaking of small but influential, there is a community of cheerleaders for nonprofits, dubbed the “Leap Ambassadors” (after the wildly popular book, Leap of Reason), who are promoting a best practice framework called, “The Performance Imperative.” The idea is that by focusing on several pillars of high performance, a nonprofit can significantly improve its effectiveness and in the process thrive. The National Council of Nonprofits agrees with this approach. (Full disclosure: two members of our staff are Leap Ambassadors.)
Even the smallest nonprofits can benefit tremendously from incorporating best practices into everyday operations. But where to start? The commitment to adopt best practices may feel overwhelming. Instead, make it manageable by recognizing that the goal is to keep improving, not cross a finish line and declare you are done. Using a framework can help you prioritize and organize the hard work of continuous improvement. The new guide, "Small but Mighty: The Performance Imperative for Small Nonprofits," was developed collaboratively by the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community to help your organization along its best practice journey. Nonprofits in the majority of states can also tap into the best practices promoted by their state associations of nonprofits, enhanced by educational programs and in many states, by checklists and self-audits, special recognition opportunities, and support through a peer group of nonprofits working to adopt the same best practices.
News flash! We’re excited to share that nonprofits in South Carolina can take advantage of a freshly-updated best practice tool! Together SC recently re-launched the Guiding Principles & Best Practices for nonprofits in South Carolina. In this podcast, you’ll hear from Together SC’s President and CEO, Madeleine McGee, about what’s new in the updated version and which practices she is particularly excited about, such as best practices for board chairs and for promoting a healthy organizational culture.
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