To every nonprofit that encouraged your staff, board, volunteers, and others to vote and have a say in their future, we salute and thank you. As Americans, we’ve just elected thousands of officials, from local school board members to the President of the United States, and collectively decided hundreds of ballot measures. While we may feel bruised by elections that were hard-fought and at times downright ugly, it is now time for nonprofits to bring people together.
Charitable nonprofits provide safe spaces where neighbors, familiar and unfamiliar, gather to improve lives and strengthen communities. There is a nonprofit ideally suited to the interests and passions of every person. Working through nonprofits, we reconnect with our communities and rediscover what binds us together. That’s when healing can happen. So nonprofits, let’s be inclusive and invite people in to join the noble work we do. Your positive actions can help model the way for our elected leaders to follow: We’ll work together to unite, heal, and move our nation forward.
What we are learning about the journey toward equity
As we listen and watch how charitable nonprofits reflect trends through their own activities and operations, we are learning that by embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion as organizational values, a nonprofit can create space for positive outcomes to flourish. Did you know that diversity can boost the quality of decision-making? Or that a diverse workplace can encourage people to be “more creative, more diligent, and harder-working?" Data also show that a more diverse staff can foster enhanced innovation. And when board members, employees, and others who shape the values and activities of a nonprofit come from a wide array of backgrounds, they each bring their unique perspectives that influence how to advance the nonprofit’s mission. But we're also learning that diversity is not the "end game," because when we bring extra baggage of implicit bias along for the ride, we can derail the journey completely.
Since building the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion into a nonprofit’s day-to-day operations is usually not automatic, we’ve been thinking a lot about how charitable nonprofits can take the first steps (and the second, and third) along this journey. We recently brought our state association members together to share what they’re doing to promote equity, and what we heard was impressive. From messaging about the benefits of inclusive board rooms and workplaces, to convening peer learning cohorts, and hosting workshops on implicit bias, state associations are excellent resources for assistance with diversity, inclusion, and equity awareness to lead important healing conversations in communities. It's exciting and hopeful to see that nonprofits are learning how to operationalize DE&I and provide leadership in this learning journey for the communities they serve.
The National Council of Nonprofits also asked leaders in our state association network to help us create a new website page to serve as a resource that any nonprofit can use with its leadership team, or community, to fortify its journey towards equity. We will continue to update the resource, and hope to post your stories on our blog, as examples of how individual nonprofits are traveling their own unique journeys towards equity. Thanks for sharing your story.
What we’re learning about the challenges of complying with multi-state charitable registration
One of the benefits of serving as a resource and advocate for the nation's largest nonprofit network is that we can listen and learn from local charitable nonprofits about their challenges. As #GivingTuesday approaches, with an increasing focus on how nonprofits can prepare to participate, we've seen an uptick in traffic to our resources pages on charitable solicitation registration. We've also heard concerns about the challenges of complying with the separate laws in 43 states that require charitable nonprofits to register prior to fundraising activities when asking residents of those states for donations.
What's the connection between giving days and charitable solicitation registration? Technology now allows nonprofits to solicit gifts via the internet and anyone to use his or her own email or smart phone to ask people to donate to an organization. Giving days invariably reach people across state lines and result in charitable gifts that come from far and wide – meaning that many contributions come from people who live in other states. And there's the rub. Just participating in a giving day may expose a nonprofit to registration requirements in multiple states.
Our website provides opportunities for readers to submit comments. We recently received this guest blog post that details how challenging it is for a small nonprofit, with annual revenue under a million dollars, to register in multiple states – so challenging in fact, that the nonprofit’s executive director has decided not to participate in #GivingTuesday. But we are also hearing from nonprofits and fundraising professionals alike that giving days are here to stay. So, will small nonprofits be disadvantaged because of the cost to comply with state charitable solicitation registration requirements? Or will advocacy by charitable nonprofits result in changes to state laws so that all nonprofits can participate in giving days and use crowdfunding (or not-yet-invented methods of fundraising) without the confusion and risks of noncompliance that exist today? Only time will tell.
We encourage you to read the story of one small nonprofit grappling with multi-state charitable solicitation registration, and we’d be most interested in hearing your nonprofit’s story.
What we’re learning about measuring our impact
Articles about using data effectively and calls to measure our impact have thoroughly surrounded us. So when we set out to refine our own process of measuring our impact, it came as a bit of a surprise to us that there were not any templates or tools that precisely fit our work. (As a result we created our own monitoring dashboard that is a tool we use to help us track our progress.)
Perhaps your nonprofit has experienced the same revelation and asked: “Where are there nonprofit-tailored tools for measuring impact?” What we’ve learned about measuring our own impact is that the precise data is not as important for us as what we’re learning through the data. Determining what data are truly meaningful to track, and then drawing meaning from the results, are what’s most enlightening and useful for ensuring that we are making progress.
Recent surveys found that most nonprofit professionals (94 percent) did not feel that they were using the data at their disposal effectively, and most foundation professionals (75 percent) did not believe that evaluations provide meaningful insights. So there is clearly a disconnect between the many voices urging nonprofits to collect data, and the practical experience of the majority of nonprofits and foundations surveyed that they don’t know how to make the best use of the data they collect!
Thus we were so pleased to learn that the Schusterman Foundation has developed a Data Playbook that just may be the answer to your question about where to find the right nonprofit-tailored tools for measuring impact. The Schusterman Foundation writes:
So, there you have it: A new tool to help your nonprofit collect, analyze, and communicate the results of data. We wish you success in your nonprofit’s learning journey to measure its own progress.
Tools & Resources
IRS Tip of the Month
Bookmark this useful webpage on the "life cycle" of an exempt organization.
REMINDER: New Federal DOL Overtime rules are effective December 1st!
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