POSITION PAPER ON NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

Most non-profit organizations’ fundraising struggled in 2020 and 2021 as the Covid 19 economic shutdown forced in-person donor and financial supporter functions to be greatly limited in size and scope or even canceled. Some organizations moved to computer-generated fund-raising events but these events were not as successful in raising money as the more face-to-face get-togethers had been. In addition, many businesses struggled financially just to get their employees paid and their doors open, thus having monies for support to charitable organizations and causes was and is simply just not there.

Further, in Houston, Texas the oil bust of 2020 caused many large companies that operate in the energy sector to limit or completely do away with charitable contributions.

Even prior to these 2020 events there had been a “Trust Crisis” developing regarding non-profit organizations. Ben Gose, a contributor to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, addressed this topic in an article he wrote that was published in the Chronicle’s January 7, 2020 newsletter. This article is very enlightening and worth reading.

fund raising

With all this being said, there were also several very emotional political causes being promoted in this time frame, and many corporations began making contributions to certain groups and causes to show their stakeholders and customers that they are good corporate citizens and are providing support to these groups and causes.

On the Foundation giving side of fundraising, the story was somewhat different in that the stock market provided many Foundations that support non-profit and charitable organizations, increases in their corpora, thus enabling them to have the funds available to make contributions; however, these Foundations are getting more requests than ever before.

Further, Foundations have refined their requirements and giving criteria such that the request process has gotten more detailed and lengthier with committees and/or staff having to evaluate requests more thoroughly and provide the Board with very specific recommendations. Most Foundations today require at a minimum that organizations seeking funding have audited financial statements, which is an added cost burden on these charitable and non-profit organizations. Most Foundations will also check with Guide Star/Candid(1) to see if the organization has filed all the necessary organizational documents, like financial statements and 990 Tax Returns with Guide Star/Candid.

NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION RECOMMENDATIONS

Richard Hendee/Horizon Associates, Inc. has been working with and assisting non-profit organizations for years. Further, Mr. Hendee has started several non-profits and has sat on numerous non-profit organization boards. He never agrees to serve on any non-profit board if that organization doesn’t have Director and Officers (D & O) Insurance coverage. In today’s litigious environment legal action of some kind is, unfortunately, a given. Even if the organization did everything right and by the book, if a suit is brought against the organization, typically the Directors and Officers are included in the suit, and the expense of hiring an attorney to defend being right can get really costly, an expense most individuals do not want to risk their personal assets for. Having D & O insurance coverage is a must for any non-profit.

Here are some other key recommendations:

  • Run the organization just like any for-profit business would be run. Eventhough the organization has been given non-profit status by the IRS for federal income tax purposes, it is still a business.
  • Develop a well-thought-out (not wordy) Mission and Vision Statement that clearly states the organization’s purpose and future direction.
  • Create an organizational chart that includes position titles and functional areas of responsibility.
  • Identify areas that need specific levels of expertise, like legal, accounting and human resources, and contract with outside service providers to assure all the details are done correctly from the start, like the Bylaws.
  • Set-up the organization with the Secretary of State in the State the organization is located in and make sure updates are filed periodically.
  • Prepare a thorough detailed Business Plan which includes what the organization does, for whom is does it, how it will do it, who are the management team and board members and what are their levels of experience, who are the competitors, how the organization will be marketing what it does, what the organization’s strategic plan is, and the key: how the organization will be funded and what happens if there are shortfalls in the funding.
  • Develop criterial governance policies like code of ethics, conflict of interest statement, whistleblower policy, directors’ roles and responsibilities, gift giving policy, investment policy, internal controls, and record retention policy.
  • Schedule monthly and annual Board Meeting dates and times and hold these meetings using a formal Roberts Rules of Order(2) process. Agendas need to be created prior to the meetings and sent out ahead of time with any related agenda item documents in order that directors may have an opportunity to review documents prior to the meeting. Further, meeting minutes should be taken at these meetings and approved at the next Board Meeting.
  • Create working Committees like Fundraising/Development, Audit, Finance, Nominating, Executive (if needed). Make sure these Committees meet regularly, take minutes, have specific assignments, and periodically report to the Board.
  • Create a Community Advisory Board made up of key visible community leaders, key business executives, and community group leaders who all can be called upon for fundraising assistance, opening doors that may need to be opened and/or providing invaluable information and support about the communities the organization may be servicing. Try to stay away from putting political officials on Advisory Boards.
  • Assure that the organization is properly protected by carrying General Liability Insurance, Hazard Insurance if the organization has a lot of fixed assets, Workers Comp. if the organization has employees, and event riders to these policies for fundraising events like Galas, Hunting Trips, Golf Outings, Trade Show Events, etc.
  • Create budgets and fundraising goals and regularly review and measure actual results.
  • If the organization has real estate, apply with all taxing authorities for a reduced property tax schedule.
  • Hold annual board retreats to develop annual plans and a five-year strategic plan. These plans should be evaluated and adjustments made periodically especially if a major event occurs.
  • Develop a robust communication plan to keep your sponsors, supporters, stakeholders, community groups, and volunteers updated on the organization, events, and developments.
  • Establish a volunteer group that can be available to help with projects, events, manpower shortage, and the like. These volunteers need to be informed and made to feel they are a part of the organization and a valuable resource.
  • Participate in local Better Business Bureau (BBB) non-profit evaluations. Often individual gift-givers check with the BBB to see if the organization has any complaints filed with the BBB.
  • Prepare collateral materials (3) that communicate your messages and what you want others to know about your organization. You want to make sure that your message is in your words to avoid any miscommunication or key details being left out in any communication chain.
  • Develop an annual giving campaign that is geared around some important date related to your organization, like the founding date. You could always use the end of the year date, as some contributors do tax-saving contributions at that time of the year.

Horizon Associates, Inc., founder by Silver Fox Advisor, Dick Hendee, has developed this non-profit organization position paper to provide non-profit organizations some guidance and assistance as individuals set up a non-profit organization and to provide existing non-profits some directional changes or planning ideas if needed Horizon Associates, Inc. does not guarantee using any of this material will result in your organization being able to achieve any specific results.

  • (1) GuideStar/Candid is an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies. In 2016, its database provided information on 2.5 million organizations. In February 2019, GuideStar merged with Foundation Center to become Candid.
  • (2) Robert’s Rules of Order is the basic handbook of operation for most clubs, organizations and other groups. So, it’s important that everyone know these basic rules! Organizations using parliamentary procedure usually follow a fixed order of business.
  • (3) Collateral material is any media material used to promote a company’s products or services. This includes everything from print materials like posters and flyers to digital content like catalogs and e-magazines. Anything you can use to communicate your company’s brand message is considered marketing collateral.

Alligators in the Swamp

In my office, I have a plaque on the wall that was given to me thirty years ago, and it has helped me over the years to stay focused. The message reads: “When you are up to your backside in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp”.

Too often in business today I see company owners struggling for years with some of the same underlying issues because they never really address the issues that are causing their problems to recur. Let me give you some examples.

“I can’t get good people to stay with my Company”. The underlying issue could be a lack of current well-written job descriptions. Why is this important? If you provide an outdated vague job description to a new employee and that employee does not do the job expected, then whose fault is that? Or, if pay increases, incentive, and/or recognition programs are not in place to reward employees for good or exceptional performance, why would that superstar employee stay with the company when other companies have those types of programs in place? The days of a person staying with a company for an entire career and being happy with a gold watch at retirement are long over.

“I wish I could get my people to do the job right the first time”. This could be a problem of simply not having a well-documented process for those key processes in the company. Some business owners tell me they have a process manual someplace, and when they find it, the dust accumulation is a telling sign of the last time it was opened. Further, in today’s world of messages limited to 144 characters, a longwinded exposition is likely not going be read all the way through, or even understood for that matter. Think about redoing and updating your process manual in a colorful flow chart format with short sentences in boxes and arrows pointing to the next steps.

One last example: “I wish I had better cash flow so I could grow my business”. Being a former banking executive, I have heard this one more often than I would care to remember. Having adequate cash flow to grow any business is so critical to the business it should be paramount in every business owner’s mind. Make and take the time needed to understand and plan cash flow, and study what causes cash flow to increase or decrease.

Without cash flow, the business is not a business for all practical purposes. I will admit cash inflows can and do happen if you are selling something, but the timing of cash inflows and cash outflows is what needs to be understood, planned for, and monitored on an ongoing basis.

If some of these phrases are familiar to you and you think it is time to address the real underlying issues, and you need assistance with your planning, you may want to consider working with an experienced Silver Fox Advisor and business professional. I encourage you to visit our website at silverfox.org to learn more about the Silver Fox Advisors, including their business advice, consulting, and mentoring offerings.

Dick Hendee, Chairman 2020
UPCOMING EVENTS
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