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From the President's Office, August 2007

Dear Friend:

My column last month on nonprofit governance struck a chord with many of you. Not surprisingly, readers had different takes on both the topic and my comments. I'd like to share some of their thoughts with you.

In general your comments emphasized not only the importance of a healthy governance process to a well-functioning nonprofit organization but the necessity of investing time and energy to make it happen. As one writer put it, "In my experience, executive directors usually get the board they deserve. If staff do not work at board development, then boards do not develop. Conversely, behind almost every well-run and productive board are hard working executive and development staff."

One person described the steps his organization is taking to work with its board: "We are currently in a strategic planning process. The goal of the process will be to identify organizational 'vital signs' that can be used to inform Board members regarding the current state of the organization, to assist in the Board's discussions about planning and goal setting and to increase transparency. Vital signs will be identified for each functional area of the organization."

Board education was a recurring theme. A former headmaster emphasized the need for ongoing board training: "I believe that Board orientation and training prevents problems. My bias is that every board member of a non-profit should receive some training on governance annually." On a similar note, a correspondent recommended that every board do an annual self-evaluation: "There needs to be a nationwide, cross-sector expectation of annual board assessment that would make it acceptable for ED's to expect it of their boards and for boards to expect it of themselves."

Another advocate of board education specifically suggested it as an alternative to more regulation: "Knowledge is power and I believe education is the key. Rather than create a compulsory set of rules and attempt to enforce them, perhaps a system to educate board members that could be accessed by nonprofits of all sizes could be created. Realizing that many nonprofits have little money for their mission, a creative way to fund such a system would need to be developed."

Board training was one of seven practices that one nonprofit uses to ensure good governance ("We never had a problem but by the same token we never want one either").

Transparency, I was happy to see, was also a common theme. As one writer noted, "Transparency is imperative to assuring good governance, and good governance is critical in order for non-profits to effectively and efficiently provide much needed services."

An individual who also "believe[s] transparency is vitally important" added, however: "I feel that recruiting and education are the two biggest challenges we face."

A few readers addressed one of the questions I asked at the end of my column, "Is there additional information [GuideStar] could be collecting to demonstrate nonprofits' governing and administrative practices?" One suggested including information on a board's structure and attendance: "You could have the Board section of a nonprofit's profile list the subcommittees of the board, and how many times the board met in the prior year. This would give an indication of how active the board is—as a proxy to how well it is meeting its governance obligations."

A second correspondent offered a similar suggestion, plus an additional one: "How many hours are the board members spending. ... A survey would also be helpful: use of outside consultants to recommend executive salary; who approves executive and board travel and entertainment expenses; related party transaction; etc."

A third individual recommended asking nonprofits if they have a conflict of interest policy ("including whether annual certification by board, officers, and staff is required)"; a code of conduct or whistleblower policy; a document retention policy; and an audit committee. "Given recent trends in various state legislatures," he commented, "it appears that extension of Sarbanes-Oxley to the nonprofit sector is not a matter of if, but when, unless nonprofit leaders voluntarily take it upon themselves to adopt these and similar policies of good governance."

Other readers focused on who should serve on nonprofit boards. One wrote, "I have found that every aspect of board leadership is based on the degree to which the board member identifies with the people an organization serves. This sense of solidarity creates an environment where the board member becomes more deeply concerned about mission fulfillment."

Another suggested who should not be board members: "High profile politicians and public officials rarely make exemplary board members, particularly if they are on a board by virtue [of] their office—all the privileges of office without any accountability (that is, they can't be removed for poor performance)." Further, "successful business leaders (and hedge fund founders and dot.com geniuses, and the like who regularly lecture the sector, launch new foundations, etc.) do not necessarily know how to successfully manage nonprofits."

Finally, several people provided information on standards, guidelines, and other governance resources for nonprofits and their boards. Please note: the list below is provided for your information; inclusion of an organization, program, or company in it does not equal endorsement by GuideStar.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts with us.

Sincerely,

Bob Ottenhoff
President and CEO


What to Ask Every Prospective Board Member

Excerpt from the second edition of Over Goal! What You Must Know to Excel at Fundraising Today

Often, in our haste to meet a deadline for recruiting board members, we whisk through the interview process or skip it entirely, relying on what we know about individuals through other connections or information about them.

How to Deliver a Bad Presentation: Ways to Confuse, Bore, or Annoy Your Audience during a PowerPoint Presentation


Reprinted from TechSoup

If you've been working at a nonprofit for any period of time, chances are you've endured at least one—and possibly quite a few—boring or irritating presentations. Regardless of whether the presenter mumbled, fidgeted, or simply failed to keep the audience's attention, bad presentations can waste time, cost money, and even damage reputations.

Yet even if you have minimal public-speaking experience, you can still give an effective, interesting presentation. Half the battle is simply not engaging in the behaviors that can turn audiences off. By avoiding the following all-too-common mistakes, you'll be well on your way to a successful, informative presentation.

  1. Skip the practice sessions.
    Even if you know your subject matter like the back of your hand or have given dozens of similar talks, it's still a good idea to walk through your presentation a few times before you take it in front of a crowd.

    Practicing your presentation out loud—preferably in front of a friend, colleague, video camera, or even a mirror—can help you troubleshoot all aspects of your speech. Use this practice time to make sure your projector works, your voice can be heard from the back of the room, and that your talk doesn't run overtime. A dry run can also help you perfect your body language and tone, which studies have shown can have just as much of an impact on your audience as the actual content of your presentation.

    If you are using an overhead projector or other visuals, make a note card for each slide outlining supporting information for the main points you plan to address. Don't write out your entire speech word-for-word on note cards, however; the notes are merely there to keep your speech focused and organized and to provide a safety net should you lose your train of thought.

  2. Read from your slides verbatim.
    While presentation slides can help visually highlight the main points of your talk, one major presentation faux pas is reading directly from those slides without adding any additional information.

    In fact, reading directly from a slide is the most common slipup presenters make, according to Andy Goodman, author of the book Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes.

    "Everywhere I go, when I ask people 'What's the number one problem you have with presenters?'" said Goodman, "reading the slide always comes back, without fail."

    Instead of repeating exactly what you've written, elaborate on the slide's main ideas with additional, contextual information. Otherwise, your audience may wonder why your presentation was even necessary. "If all you're doing is reading points of the slide," said Goodman, "then why not just print out the slides, hand them to people, and call the whole meeting off?"

  3. Stare at your notes, handouts, or the floor.
    While you will need to glance at your notes periodically to keep your speech on track, try to keep your head up and facing the audience as much as possible.

    Facing the audience not only helps you make eye contact with individual members but it also allows you to project your voice better, which will come in especially handy if no microphone is available.

  4. Speak in monotone.
    If you want to keep your audience engaged and excited about your presentation, your tone of voice needs to convey a similar enthusiasm. After all, how can an audience stay interested in your presentation if you yourself sound bored with it?

    To avoid speaking in monotone, try talking to your audience in a conversational style; pretend that instead of talking to a group of people, you are chatting with just one person. Even if your subject matter is dry, maintaining a lively tone of voice will help ensure that you don't make matters duller.

  5. Talk really fast, then really slowly.
    While varying the tone of your voice can help keep your audience from nodding off during your presentation, you will probably want to maintain a fairly consistent rhythm to your speech.

    If you speak too quickly, your audience may mishear or misinterpret you. And if you talk too slowly or interject your presentation with too many pauses, "ums," or "ers," your audience may lose patience or confidence in you and start to zone out. For maximum effectiveness, strive for a happy medium; if you're unsure where your speech falls, this is a good time to get a second opinion or to record and play back your delivery.

  6. Assume your audience knows as much as you do.
    If you designed and created a slide show for your presentation using a program such as OpenOffice Impress or Microsoft PowerPoint, all of the information probably makes complete sense—at least to you. Your audience, however, may be only vaguely familiar with or even brand new to the subject.

    Make sure your audience understands why the topic at hand is important. Give potentially confusing points context by providing background information; find a way to relate new concepts to something your audience is already familiar with.

    Take care, however, not to overburden your audience with too much information; otherwise, you may take focus off of your main subject and risk derailing your presentation.

  7. Take questions at the end of your presentation only.
    An effective presentation is less about lecturing your audience and more about engaging them. Therefore, give participants a few moments to ask for clarification, raise additional points, or provide input that other audience members may find useful.

    One mistake that many presenters make is waiting until the end of the presentation to take questions from the audience, according to Goodman. He suggests that presenters instead hold the question-and-answer period after they've given the bulk of their presentation, then devote the last couple of minutes to a prepared closing statement.

    "You want to start strong and you want to end strong," said Goodman, "because the things they [the audience] are going to remember the most are when you first walked into the room and when you said goodbye."

    Goodman notes that because some audience members may ask questions that are off-topic, nonsensical, or even hostile, ending your presentation with the question-and-answer period puts you at risk for leaving a bad final impression.

  8. Fail to have a backup plan.
    Technical difficulties are a fact of life, and if you believe in Murphy's Law, your big presentation will fall on the same day that every electronic device in your building acquires some bizarre quirk.

    In case of power failures, equipment malfunctions, and other unforeseen snags, have a backup plan. Bring visuals and other support materials that don't require the use of an electrical outlet.

    This kind of backup can be especially helpful if you're giving the presentation using unfamiliar equipment; if for some reason, you can't get your new slide projector to work, you can hand out printed copies or give your presentation using a whiteboard. If you're giving a presentation in another location, call ahead to find out what materials (dry-erase board, markers) they have that you could use in the event of a technical glitch.
Read "How to Design a Bad Presentation: Ways to Misuse Visuals, Text, and Animation in a PowerPoint Presentation"

Brian Satterfield is staff writer at TechSoup. Kami Griffiths is senior program associate at TechSoup's TechCommons program.

VisitTechSoup.org for technology information, access to donated and discounted products, advice from nonprofit experts and your peers, and the TechSoup Blog.

Blocking Terrorist Funding: Treasury's Risk Matrix for the Charitable Sector


Note: The following discussion is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. For specific information about complying with anti-terrorist sanctions and financing rules, consult your attorney.
Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has investigated and developed programs to prevent the use of charitable organizations to finance terrorist operations. To support these efforts, in November 2002, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) issued voluntary guidelines for charities working overseas; revised guidelines were released in September 2006. This past March, OFAC released a Risk Matrix for the Charitable Sector outlining possible security threats.

The risk matrix is intended to help charitable organizations that deliver aid in high-risk areas understand and comply with U.S. sanctions programs. The matrix indicates characteristics of low-, medium-, and high-risk situations in 11 categories, including the specificity of a grantee's charitable purposes, the size of the donation, the location of the charitable activity, and the history of the grantee's charitable activities.

OFAC suggests that charities that work overseas will benefit particularly from the matrix, because working internationally poses "increased risks." Using the matrix can only minimize that risk, however; it will not guarantee protection from terrorist infiltration. OFAC further acknowledges that, because all charities are unique in "size, products, and services, sources of funding, the geographic locations that they serve, and numerous other variables," use of the matrix will differ from organization to organization.

More Information

Naomi Munk and Suzanne E. Coffman, August 2007
© 2007, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)

Naomi Munk is an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary and was a marketing/communications intern at GuideStar during the spring 2007 semester. Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's director of communications and editor of the Newsletter.

How to Design a Bad Presentation: Ways to Misuse Visuals, Text, and Animation in a PowerPoint Presentation


Reprinted from TechSoup

If you've ever prepared a presentation for your nonprofit, chances are you've used (or considered using) a slide show. Whether conducted via old-fashioned slides, transparencies, or on software such as OpenOffice Impress or Microsoft PowerPoint, a good slide show can enhance your presentations, allowing you to underscore key points and support your statements with visual aids such as charts and graphs.

A poorly created slide show presentation, however, can often have the opposite effect, leaving your audience confused, apathetic, or even frustrated with the topic at hand.

Fortunately, designing a compelling, understandable slide presentation isn't rocket science—if you recognize what elements to include and which to leave out. The next time you need to whip up a compelling presentation, remember to avoid the following common (but easily remedied) blunders.

  1. Jam as much information into the slides as possible.
    If you don't have a lot of experience creating presentations, you may assume that the more information you include, the more your audience will learn and retain. This is often not the case.

    Taking a less-is-more approach when deciding how much information to include is frequently the most effective choice, according to Andy Goodman, author of the book Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes.

    "Most people walking out of a presentation are only going to remember a handful of things," said Goodman. "If you overwhelm them, they're going to tune out and turn off, and you've lost them."

    Goodman suggests focusing a presentation's information on three to five main points. He also recommends that each slide focus on one primary idea, along with key supporting points.

    "I don't like to overburden the slides with too much content," said Goodman. "And really, the whole point of a slide is to be a support for the presenter."

  2. Avoid the use of visuals.
    When creating your presentation, taking an all-text, all-the-time approach can cause your audience's attention to wander. Instead, spice up your presentation by including a few judiciously placed photos or graphics.

    Images can lend an element of visual appeal, but avoid using them gratuitously. Select only those graphics that relate to or support your main points. If you're giving a presentation on homeless people's rights, for example, photos of your constituents will be a much more powerful visual aid than clip art of flowers.

    Also avoid adding too many images to a single slide or placing them haphazardly. PowerPoint and Impress come with a number of pre-designed templates with well-placed slots for photos, charts, and other graphics. If you have limited design experience, you may wish to use these templates to create your presentation or as reference guides for a custom design.

    You can download additional, free PowerPoint templates at Microsoft's official template page. Impress templates are available at OO Extra's Impress Templates page.

  3. Use plenty of animations—just because you can.
    While animations can be fun, too many flashing icons may overwhelm your audience or steal the spotlight from key information. As with images, use animations sparingly and judiciously.

    Animations are useful to a presentation when they help control the flow of information, said Goodman. For example, an animation could reveal the contents of a diagram or chart bit by bit, helping your audience focus on how information has changed over time.

    Animations can also be an effective tool when they help add context, adds Goodman. "If you have a quote from a book and you [use an animation to] show the book cover, then the quote literally slides out of the book to suggest that the quote comes from the book. That's animation to convey meaning."

  4. Use transitions arbitrarily.
    Though audiences are most accustomed to straight cuts between slides, Goodman says, the use of transitions can sometimes help an audience better understand a presentation's structure.

    For example, PowerPoint's "Fade Through Black" transition, which dissolves a slide to black before bringing up another, can be used to denote the introduction of a new topic, Goodman said.

    "[The Fade Through Black transition] gives a sense to the room that one subject has ended and another subject is beginning," Goodman noted.

  5. Use tiny, hard-to-read fonts.
    Because your audience will most likely be viewing your presentation from a distance, make sure that the text size is large enough for them to read. As a general rule of thumb, Goodman suggests using font sizes of 20 points and larger, though he explains that the size of your audience, room, and projection screen should be taken into consideration.

    Slides may also be easier to read from a distance if you use sans serif rather than serif typefaces, which are more ornamental. Sans serif fonts found in PowerPoint and Impress include Arial (the default font for both programs), Century Gothic, and Verdana.

  6. Choose color schemes at random.
    Hot pink and baby blue might be your two personal favorites, but that doesn't mean they're the right color choice for your presentation. Not only can incompatible font and background colors detract from a presentation's credibility, they can also make it illegible.

    Using light-colored text on dark backgrounds and vice versa will help you achieve a desirable level of contrast and readability. If you're unsure where to begin, start with PowerPoint's design templates, which choose the colors for you. These colors can further be customized with PowerPoint's built-in Color Schemes tool, which lets you apply a few sets of background and text colors to individual slides or to the entire presentation.

  7. Don't proofread.
    A slide show riddled with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors can cause you and your organization to look unprofessional. Before you finalize your presentation, check each slide for punctuation, missing words or characters, and usage and agreement problems. After you've manually proofread your work, you may want to double-check your spelling by using the slide application's built-in spell-checking tool.

  8. Forget the feedback.
    Keep in mind that your presentation means nothing if your audience doesn't understand it. Enlist a friend or colleague to review or watch your presentation and give you feedback on its design, structure, layout, and tone. A fresh pair of eyes may be better able to spot errors or inconsistencies you, as the author, may have overlooked.
With your visuals and information in place, you're almost ready to impress your audience.

Next month: "How to Deliver a Bad Presentation: Ways to Confuse, Bore, or Annoy Your Audience during a PowerPoint Presentation"

Brian Satterfield, with additional information provided by Kami Griffiths
© 2007, CompuMentor

Brian Satterfield is staff writer at TechSoup. Kami Griffiths is senior program associate at TechSoup's TechCommons program.

Visit TechSoup.org for technology information, access to donated and discounted products, advice from nonprofit experts and your peers, and the TechSoup Blog.

The Future of Fundraising


Technology is changing so fast it has become almost impossible to keep up. Every year something new hits the market; whether it's the coolest gadget or the next version of a critical software application, nonprofits are not immune to the changing societal landscape. Technology has fundamentally altered the way people interact, and nonprofit organizations need to adapt to the changing conversation in order to maintain and advance fundraising efforts.

Nonprofits should look at both their messages and the mediums they use to convey them to determine the viability of their fundraising efforts for the future. Below are some suggestions to help nonprofits adjust and update their fundraising efforts to join today's technology-driven conversation and create fundraising strategies that will be as useful in the years to come as they are today.

  1. Multi-channel fundraising: Constituents today get information from a variety of sources. Some may read the local paper in the morning, check the Web site of a national news organization during the day, and watch television news in the evening. In essence, they can get the same information from three different sources, but they can also get significantly different information from each channel. Other constituents may get daily headlines sent via text and never check the Web.

    The point is that each person has his or her preferences on how he or she would like to receive information and what information he or she would like to see. No matter which way or how many times the message is delivered to a single constituent, the main message must be the same. Just because the message is the same, however, doesn't mean that the same call to action should be used. In fact, the "ask" amount or call to action should be different depending on the medium.

    A single call to action may not be appropriate for every channel. For example, a text message may not be the most appropriate way to ask for a donation, but it might be a really good way for someone to sign up for a volunteer opportunity. Constituents can simply reply "yes" if they are available to volunteer. Nonprofits may find that e-mail appeals are a more effective method to ask for donations. Therefore, nonprofits will need to learn what works for each medium and adjust their communications accordingly.

  2. Social media: Social media is more than social networking. It encompasses all on-line tools designed to share content, including social networking, blogs, and wikis, to name a few. Social media, enabled by Web 2.0 technology, has created a global conversation between organizations and their constituents. These new communication mediums do not displace the traditional methods that have worked for years but rather add to the pool of communication choices.

    The bottom line is that constituents are using these methods, and some may actually prefer social media over traditional communication mediums. In order to ensure future fundraising success, nonprofits need to join the on-line conversation—in some form—and incorporate social media into their overall fundraising strategies.

  3. Segmentation: Segmenting a contacts database is one of the easiest and most important components of ensuring an organization's fundraising future. Segmenting helps eliminate some of the confusion that arises with multiple communication channel choices.

    Because technology opens the door to new prospects, it increases the number of contact records an organization stores. As the communication between a nonprofit and its constituents increases in both frequency and channels used, the ability to segment the database accurately helps organizations make sense of the various communication methods and provides guidance to determine how to communicate most effectively with certain prospects, donors, volunteers, and supporters.

  4. Social accountability: Most nonprofits know they need to demonstrate financial accountability to their board of directors, but many forget to expand accountability—including how specific gifts are used—to donors and constituents. After numerous stories about financial mishandlings at nonprofits appeared in mainstream media, the demand for social accountability grew rapidly.

    Constituents want to know where their donations went, how they were used, and what impact they made. For fundraisers, accountability has become a primary component of the organization's message. It is this message that keeps existing donors and encourages one-time supporters to become consistent, lifelong contributors. Nonprofits are able to build the trust that is the foundation of long-lasting relationships by being open and forthcoming.

The future can be a scary topic but one that shouldn't be avoided. The younger generations are tech-savvy and demanding. They have grown up in the world of instant gratification and constant change, and they expect these characteristics of life to remain. They text, blog, and run their own Web sites. They initiate conversations and share their opinions. And they are future donors. In order to attract these prospects, nonprofits will need to prepare their fundraising future now.

By John Murphy, Kintera
© 2007, Kintera®, Inc.

John Murphy is vice president, professional services, for Kintera®, Inc. Kintera provides software as a service to help organizations quickly and easily reach more people, raise more money, and run more efficiently. The Kintera technology platform features a social constituent relationship management (CRM) system, enabling donor management, e-mail and communications, Web sites, events, advocacy programs, wealth screening, and accounting.