The Center for Association Resources

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Is an association management firm focused on helping Non-Profit associations succeed in their mission.

Establishing a social media policy for your non-profit

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Social Media is a very hot topic these days. In fact, it has become an indispensable means of marketing for corporations as well as non-profit organizations. Most non-profit organizations that utilize social media have formulated best practices and policies to get the most out of this valuable tool. It is best to first use social media sites in your personal life to get an idea of how the various sites operate, and get an understanding of the culture of social media networks. Once an understanding of social media networks is realized it is important to develop some goals and a strategy for using social media.

First off, you should determine what you want to accomplish by using social media. Specifically, looking at your organization’s mission statement and values will help you strategize to gain the most out of social media. Thinking in terms of content you will provide, and how you will interact with your audience will help you develop a strategy.

Things like what type of information you will provide as well as the image you want to promote will help you develop a plan. Other factors such as who will be in charge of monitoring comments, and releasing information should be planned out in advance. Next it is important to implement a short term as well as a long term plan to achieve your organization’s goals. Developing metrics to evaluate success of a social media policy is an important part of your strategy. Things like donations and overall hits on a particular website will tell you how well you are reaching your target audience. Sites with few followers or friends will need to be reassessed.

Creativity and an engaging style are very important when using social media to achieve your goals. The possibilities when using sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are nearly endless and always evolving. Coming up with creative ideas on how to appeal to your audience will determine, in part, your success. Keep in mind that keeping your page up to date as well as professional is very important.

Things like a “listen, learn, and adapt” policy will help you become better and better at social media, as social media is an iterative process. Finally maintaining and monitoring your social media page is important. It is vital that you allocate resources and time to making sure your page is up to date and keeping people engaged in your cause.

Social media looks like it is here to stay, and has proven invaluable to many organizations.

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Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , ,

Relationship between Full time Executives or paid staff and the board members of a Non-Profit body

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Any non-profit organization will have two different sections of employees associated with it. One is the paid full time staff called the Executives and the other is the part time unpaid board members. The responsibilities of these two groups of people are completely different. But many a times, the full time executives consider the board members as a hindrance to their day to day functioning. They find it irritating when the board members questions them about their progress. These full time executives have a feeling that they know much more than the board members who work only on a part time basis. Full time executives often fail to understand the background of the board members. The board members usually have double the experience of the full time executives. The board members usually have the responsibility of laying down the objectives, recruiting the full time staff executives and monitoring their progress. If the board finds a particular executive not performing well, then they have every right to question the executive and advise him to improve his performance. This will not be taken easily by the executives. The executives might think that the board members are just acting wildly. This leads to the full time executive taking a grudge against the board members. This will definitely affect the performance of the executive. Hence the board members have to be extremely sensitive to these issues and use all their experience to handle the situation in a careful manner. Their years and years of corporate experience will come in handy.

Now with more and more mentors being employed by the board members to coach the executives of the non profit body, the executives are slowly trying to understand the responsibility of the board members. The mentors will make the executives understand that their responsibilities are completely different from the executive board members. They will make the executives realize that the board members perform their duties from a strategic perspective, whereas the executives perform their jobs from a daily operational perspective. The mentors also advise the board members to show more openness in their decision making approach. This will help to strengthen the bond and improve the trust level between the board members and the executives.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , ,

What Do They Mean by “Non-Profit Organization”?

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Some of you may not know what a non-profit organization is in its entirety. You may wonder, “why do they call themselves non-profit organizations?” or “what’s the point of telling everyone that they’re non-profit?” The reason is because non-profits and for-profits have different sets of laws that they must abide by. The main difference between a for-profit and non-profit organization is ownership. Non-profit organizations don’t have owners, so they can’t sell their shares or personally benefit in any way. All profits gained by a non-profit organization would have to go into the organization for its self-preservation, expansion and future plans. None of the members are allowed to benefit financially from it. Non-profit organizations are often charities or service organizations, founded and supported by people who are dedicated and want to support a certain cause. Those causes are often charities or service organizations.

Nowadays, many non-profit organizations follow the same structure as for-profit organizations by using corporate leadership and managing their volunteers the same way for-profit organizations would. Foundations could give grants to non-profit organizations to support their cause. The performance of non-profit organizations is strongly dependent on its management, so some of them want experienced managers who have worked for for-profit organizations before. For a non-profit organization to be known, there are multiple ways for them to speak up. One of them is called community advocacy, which may involve changing the ideas and attitudes of the public through education, publications, websites, and by other means. Some non-profit organizations would even use legal advocacy, whereas they find the idea of having lawsuits would be a more effective method to gain public attention. This is because the complaints must be heard as long as it is presented properly.

Through these ways and some others, non-profit organizations can become well-known and benefit more from the donations of the general public.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , ,

Non Profit Fund raising through online Auctions

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

For any non profit organization, the most important element that keeps the organization running is the fund required for providing the service. Providing service without expecting any monetary benefit is the main factor that separates a non profit organization from a commercial organization. In that way, the non profit organization should have a proven methodology to have sufficient funds for carrying out its activities. One of the most commonly used methods by the non profit organization for collecting funds is the fund raising method. Fund raising can be done in a number of ways. Some of the methodologies that have been commonly used include the fund raising music concerts given by popular musicians and performers, fund raising sports events between two popular teams, fund raising movie shows, fund raising by traditional auctions, among others. With the advent of the internet, more and more operations related to commercial business have now moved online.

Similarly, the fundraising also can make use of the reach of the internet and perform certain activities that will bring in the required funds. One fund raising on line activity that can be done by any non profit organization is the setting up on line auctions through an on line auction provider such as E-bay. For setting up an online auction, one needs to have an account with the on line provider and a product on which the auction will take place. Finding the right product to sell on auction is highly important to generate sufficient funds from the on line auctions. To get an idea about the type of items that have generated excellent responses from the bidders, these online auction providers have a list of items that had been very popular in the past with respect to generating money based on the bids placed. The non profit organization can have a look at this product listing. After arriving at the right product, the on line auction provider will provide the necessary process steps to complete the auction. Once the auction is complete, the non profit organization should send a mail to the bid winner providing details about the bid amount, the features of the product that was won, payment method and the shipping period. These types of interactions will help to maintain a relationship with the bidder.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , ,

Working with difficult people in non-profit associations

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Working with difficult people is more or less an unavoidable part of life in general. And this problem can present unique challenges in the business world. When it comes to the management of a business, there are bound to be difficult people at all steps during the process – Whether it is an angry, frustrated customer, or a ruthless, uncompromising board member. Difficult people are everywhere, and a successful leader should know how to work with them. The management of a nonprofit organization is certainly not exempt from the rule. Successfully running a nonprofit firm will include the unpleasant task of working with difficult people.

Perhaps you have a board member who makes a habit of being difficult. The first step to take in order to remedy the problem is to try to get to the source of the conflict. Why is the person being difficult; or, more accurately, why do you (and others) perceive them as being difficult? It is important as a manager or co-worker to put yourself in the person’s shoes. Are they being stubborn or strong-headed? Perhaps they simply feel that the job at hand is not being done properly, and are trying to get everyone else back on track. Are they being whiny or non-responsive? Perhaps they feel outnumbered, and are too reluctant to offer their own dissenting opinion when they feel that everyone else is against them. Understanding the difficult person’s viewpoint will help you to approach them without making them feel threatened or disliked.

If a difficult board member is posing too serious of a problem to the organization’s health, it may be time to develop a strategy to limit their impact or even remove them from the board. Check your firm’s bylaws for procedures regarding the removal of a board member; many bylaws will require a unanimous vote from the other board members. Whatever you do, do not violate your own organization’s bylaws, or you can be sure the offended person will pursue legal action. It is also an option to try to get the person to hand in their resignation.

Managers of nonprofit firms will likely not only have to work with difficult board members; they may also encounter difficult donors and volunteers. When dealing with a difficult donor, it is still important to try to approach the situation from their viewpoint, all while remembering your organization cannot function without the generosity of outside donors. The importance of trying not to trample on people’s egos should not be underestimated. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to certain aspects of a donor’s request for the use of the money if you feel they would compromise the vision of the organization. Try to make the difficult donor understand why you have a disagreement with them, while always remembering to speak in the positive. For instance: don’t negatively criticize the donor’s request, but instead talk positively about your organization’s goals, and explain why you think the donor’s goals might not be aligned properly with the organization’s.

Dealing with difficult volunteers is another problem that may arise. Again, it is always important to try to make sure the volunteer understands the company’s vision, and why their behavior may be compromising that vision. They would not be volunteering at your organization if they did not care about the work you do. If the situation cannot be resolved, it is always an option to politely tell the volunteer that they won’t be able to work with your organization in the future.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, Training, , , , ,

Fundraising ideas for non-profits

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Nonprofit organizations need funds to survive.  The fantastic news is that there is a vast array of ways to generate these much-needed funds.

One method of collecting funds for a nonprofit group is to create a well-designed website, with a “donate” section, for the organization.  This is a terrific way to receive donations as people can go to the website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, And donations can be collected from people all over the world.  A shopping cart can be placed on the website; and products related to the organization’s cause can be sold on the website, as well.

Selling ad-space on the organization’s website is a fantastic idea that can bring in a lot of money.  Small businesses are always looking for places that are inexpensive to advertise their products or services.  Setting rates that small businesses can handle will attract many business owners, and add to the group’s bank account.

Another terrific idea is appealing for donations through social networks.  Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Linkedin are popular sites for generating donations and have been highly successful in creating funds for nonprofits.

Spare change can add up.  Placing a few collection jars in local grocery stores or other businesses can add up to a lot of money in a short time.  Giving their spare change away is easy for people. It can be surprising that giving just a little bit of change can add up to so much money.

Corporate sponsorship is another option.  This is when a large company gives money to a nonprofit cause.  They do this as a form of advertisement so that they will then be associated with the cause. The corporation benefits because they generate publicity for themselves, and the public sees them as generous.  They can also receive tax deductions for their donations.

Another source of support that nonprofit organizations can appeal to is grants.  Many public and private foundations offer grants to nonprofits to help with their causes. When applying for these grants, it is a smart idea to have an experienced grant writer write out the request and approach the foundation.

Fund raising events, such as walk-a-thons, car washes, bake sales, yard sales, craft sales, carnivals and auctions can be a fun way of making money for the group.  Another great way to earn money for your group is to sell products offered by companies specifically for fund raising.  These products include candy bars, candles, magazines, cookie dough, doughnuts, coupon books and popcorn.

When appealing for donations, one should keep in mind that donations of such things as equipment, office supplies and services can be just as valuable as money.  Often, a person may not have money to give, but they may be able to donate their time or services or a piece of furniture that the organization needs.

In conclusion, nonprofits need help to keep their organizations running.  There are many ways to obtain this help, and it is a win-win situation for all those involved.  Donors receive valuable tax deductions for their donations and the feeling of having given to their community, and the nonprofits can continue their work.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , , , ,

What is the Center for Association Resources?

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

The Center is an Association Management firm in Schaumburg, Illinois, with Robert Patterson as the Chief Executive Officer. We provide management, consulting, and advisory services to primarily non-profit organizations and associations that need the expertise and management services we provide.

Our experience spans areas ranging from volunteer recruitment to assembling a productive and engaged board of directors, to developing association policies against substance abuse, drinking, and harassment. Your non-profit organization benefits from over 50 years of combined experience. We can provide numerous positive references and testimony from associations we presently benefit.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , ,

Use search engines to increase association recognition

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

At The Center for Association Resources has published many articles about how to improve your association’s results using an effective online presence. These include
Non-profit organizations and associations benefit from community support, name recognition, and online presence. Search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, can provide traffic and accessibility to clients and those seeking to learn or donate to the association. Even a small center, organization, or association should have a website containing at least basic information about your services, and preferably a more interactive and engaging experience that raises interest and awareness of your association and its central objectives.

Providing useful content, in an accessible form, is critical to reaching the widest audience. Google is able to catalog text pages very well. Unfortunately, many sites have begun using Flash and other media to present information. This also makes life difficult for people with blindness or other disabilities that make using a graphical system difficult. If you’re going to have a  graphics version of your site, also make a text alternative available. This will increase your audience, and show that you care about those you serve and those who contribute to the success of your organization.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being on guard for fraud in non-profits

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Non-profit organizations have a special need to prevent and detect fraud. While for profit organizations also must watch for fraud, the non-profit sector has some unique considerations.  To keep donations flowing, the need to maintain the public’s trust and protect the organization’s reputation is paramount.

Fraudulent acts which impact an organization can occur either outside or inside the organization. Some estimates put the total percentage of fraud for the non-profit sector as high as 13% of annual donations. While fraud is more often committed by lower level employees, the higher the employees’ position in the organization, the larger the total fraud losses tend to be.  CEOs commit the lowest percentage of fraudulent acts, but their fraud tends to involve larger monetary amounts.

Common types of internal fraud involve cash theft and erroneous expense reports. Physical assets can also be stolen from the organization. Frequent periodic audit of asset inventories can prevent and detect this type of fraud. Outright theft of cash donations needs to be prevented.  Controls such as having two people observe and count cash donations, segregation of duties for the receiving and accounting for donations and other routine cash controls can be beneficial in reducing the risk of cash theft.

Expense reports are also often a conduit for fraud. A system for verifying expense reports should be implemented and expense reports and receipts should be examined prior to payment. Externally, fraud by vendors, either with collusion from an employee, or committed totally by the vendor is also a concern. Some scenarios include a manager authorizing payment for goods never received or authorizing payment to a nonexistent company where the funds are ultimately received by the authorizing employee.  Segregation of duties for payment and purchasing, effective computerized payment system controls, and dual signature requirements for checks can reduce risk of this type of fraud. Periodic checks of vendor records to ensure that vendors actually exist are also a deterrent.

Top management at non-profits can set the tone for fraud prevention by establishing effective internal control policies. One of these controls that may seem surprising is mandating employees take vacation time accrued. Fraud is more difficult to cover up when the employee committing it is absent. The average amount of time a fraudulent activity occurs prior to catching it is 18 months. Occasionally these schemes have gone on for years without being identified. Sometimes fraud is identified by audits or internal controls. Sadly, fraud is often not caught until an organization fails due to the impact from fraud. Even if an organization is financially able to weather an episode of fraud, the loss of good reputation can often hamper the organization’s future fundraising efforts.

The potential negative effects of fraud on the non-profit organization compel everyone in a non-profit to be aware of the need for fraud prevention. The success and reputation of the organization depends on it.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, Training, , , , , ,

Bridging the long-distance learning divide

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

In order for any student to understand the complexity of long-distance learning, that student needs to know four key points to maintain their education in an environment that is outside the classroom.  The first key to a long distance learning situation is to maintain an open level of communication without a divide. The second key concept is that of clear and concise instructions for papers, essays and projects.  The third point for bridging the long-distance learning divide is to provide students with multiple levels of instructing, from kinesthetic to visual and auditory.  Finally, the fourth key element in the long distance learning divide is to be attentive to anyone falling behind and get in contact.  If a student is slowly falling into the back of the class but had started out great, then it is time for professor intervention.

The first concept to grasp in long-distance learning is open communication.  This means all things that could be said in the classroom must be translated into the e-mail, chat or lecture notes that a student can understand.  The student must also communicate their needs and a teacher knows this.  By maintaining that expectation for a student to have, the teacher is free to instruct how he or she sees fit without complication.  The first essential for long distance learning is communication.

The second tool for long distance learning is to make sure that one’s instruction is simple, clear and precise without room for error.  If a student fails at step one, They must be self-reliant to do step two.  An instructor has the responsibility to one’s classroom of long-distance students to make sure instruction is deliberate to the class’ needs.

The third essential tool needs to include levels of instruction that everyone can learn from.  Not everyone can take notes and learn that way; the classroom must have video and auditory components.  Perhaps the teacher can lecture over the internet, through video and provide a transcript of the lecture so students can all learn.

The fourth tool is to maintain contact.  The teacher must be available to the students to chat on an instant message program, be constantly checking email for student questions and open to new forms of technology they can utilize and they can teach to their students.

Following these four key instructions allows for a teacher to learn the most important tools for a classroom that is taught through distance rather than in person. And it keeps the human element in place for the future of the distance learning program.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , ,

April 2011
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