The Center for Association Resources


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

Finding (and Keeping) Great Volunteers 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.

Tips on how to recruit and retain volunteers in non-profit organizations.

Finding (and Keeping) Great Volunteers for Non-Profits

Good managers in non-profit organizations have always known that people are their greatest resource. In today’s challenging economy, non-profit groups are becoming increasingly reliant upon their volunteers to continue operations. Many tasks and roles previously filled by paid staffers are now filled by volunteers, and the new challenge facing non-profit managers and boards is how to attract and retain high-quality volunteers.

When looking for volunteers, non-profits need to be very clear about what type of person or group they are looking for, what specific task or role they would like accomplished and how unpaid workers will fit into their organizational team and objectives. It’s important to develop a clear job description for volunteers so that all parties involved understand expectations up front. It’s not uncommon for potential volunteers, especially highly skilled ones, to have a number of opportunities to choose from. Make sure your organization looks appealing and professional when soliciting help.

Think about what is going to inspire a bright, motivated individual to spend unpaid time helping your organization. Think about why someone would choose your non-profit to work with, and what benefits and experiences you can offer to a volunteer. Also, make plans for how to retain a great volunteer. Set up an ongoing volunteer recognition system to encourage people to continue with your organization. Things like thank-you cards and homemade gifts are usually appreciated, however it’s also important to take the time to get to know what’s really important to your volunteers. For example, if a person is trying to gain admission to a college, offer to write a recommendation letter for them. This type of ‘thank-you’ doesn’t cost your organization anything, but it can go a long way towards generating positive thoughts among volunteers.

Other considerations…

If you manage in a unionized organization, make sure to explore any possible concerns with using unpaid staff relative to the current union contract. Few things will drive away volunteers faster than becoming involved in labor disputes. Also, make sure that all your paid staff are clear about the need for, and roles of volunteers. Talking openly with the staff members of your non-profit will help alleviate any concerns they have about being replaced by unpaid workers. It’s important that all members of your organization, paid and unpaid, clearly understand their role within the staff team.

Volunteer, Non-Profit, Unpaid Workers, Organizations, Skilled volunteers,The Center for Association Resources

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

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, , , , , ,

Non-profit Organizations–Negotiating Hotel Contracts

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.

Managing a non-profit organization can be a unique challenge for even a well-seasoned corporate executive from the private sector. While non-profits seem quite similar to their for-profit counterparts from the vantage point of the organization’s membership, those in managerial positions soon recognize that many key aspects of non-profit governance vary greatly from that to which they are accustomed.

For example, non-profit organizations provide immense value to the communities they serve in the form of meaningful work and improvement in the quality of life. Yet despite the magnitude of the services they provide, operating budgets for most small non-profits are often under $500,000–minuscule in comparison to the services they provide. This paucity of funding leads to the need for enormous amounts of creativity and flexibility on the part of the management team.

At the same time, the management of non-profits often falls into the hands of inexperienced non-management personnel, in large part due to the lack of available funds for recruitment and remuneration of experienced leaders. This is not always a negative; with the proper training and support, those new to management roles can bring a much needed fresh perspectives and insight into the board rooms of small and large non-profits.

Despite the unique challenges they pose, non-profits nevertheless offer the opportunity to bring together people who share common values, an enthusiasm for community action, and the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for the successful maintenance of any organization–something that quite a few experienced managers find exciting.  Ironically, however, one of the greatest obstacles the non-profit manager faces is finding the ways and means to accomplish the kind of joint collaboration that is essential to keeping these critical stakeholders energized and motivated. Regular meetings involving both management personnel and the organization as a whole are absolutely necessary to keep any non-profit functioning with maximum efficiency.

In most instances, full membership meetings of small non-profit organizations occur only once or perhaps twice each year. Usually in a hotel or, depending on the proximity of the organization’s “home base” and the number of projected attendees, a large motor lodge. The reasons for this are fairly obvious; hotels are already equipped with nearly all of the pre-requisites for a successful annual or semi-annual membership meeting: meeting rooms, restaurants and catering capabilities, sleeping quarters, and adequate parking and/or airport shuttle service.  Unfortunately, these are also the reasons why negotiating a contract with a hotel or even a smaller motor lodge for these types of meetings can be so challenging.

According to Whitney Archibald of Exhibitor Magazine, the negotiation process for securing an affordable deal with a desirable location should begin before the non-profit manager even speaks to the hotel event coordinator, when the management team designates the person who will be responsible for negotiating with the venue.

Once the person doing the negotiating has been chosen, both Archibald and Joan Eisenstodt, chief strategist of Eisenstodt Associates, suggest that the management team write its own contract (in collaboration with the firm’s attorney.) Even if the hotel rejects the contract out of hand, the experience will help your team to hone in on exactly what you want from the hotel as well as what you do not want. This approach also allows you to be proactive in including any areas that were problematic for you in other settings.

Of course, it stands to reason that you should also get everything in writing, right down to the color of the napkins on the hors d’oeuvres table (some venues will charge extra for any color other than white or the dining room’s “signature color.”) Do not assume that because something was discussed verbally it will be included. While an oral contract may be legally binding, a written contract is always the best protection for your organization.

Part two of the above–read the contract carefully. Many hotels charge fees for items about which most of us would never think to inquire, and these fees are very often open to negotiation. Items such as maids’ fees when your group will only be staying in the hotel for a single night, tips for the wait staff that are built directly into the price of a meal, or penalties for early or late check-in are all items that usually can be successfully negotiated if you know about them before you sign the contract.

Think about amenities. Very often you can negotiate the use of hotel amenities for your group for free if you do a bit of homework beforehand to see what amenities your group might enjoy. Some hotels may allow free use of the pool and hot-tub but charge prestigious fees for a massage. If your group is small and you don’t plan on using the pool, for example, perhaps you can negotiate free neck massages for anyone who wants one on the first afternoon of the event. On the other hand, if your membership does not mind giving up some amenities, you may be able to use that fact to negotiate a lower room rate or a free continental breakfast.

Another suggestion is to never, ever pay for the use of meeting rooms. Virtually every hotel has more meeting rooms than it ever uses, or it uses them once a year for a single event. You can easily capitalize on this knowledge. Offer to hold break-out groups in the smallest meeting rooms for free, rather than paying to hold a single discussion group in the one large room available. This leaves the hotel the option of scheduling a profitable last minute meeting in the larger conference room; you save money, and your attendees will most likely be more productive.

Finally, think ahead. It is almost always less expensive to book a hotel a year or even more in advance. If your organization has been around for a few years and your membership is stable, or growing at a relatively stable rate, it is reasonable to assume it will continue to do so. Furthermore, as long as you give the venue enough advance notice, you will rarely be penalized if you need to add or remove attendees shortly before the event. Most meeting places require thirty to ninety days notice of cancellation in order to avoid a penalty.

Remember, too, that the recession is still taking its toll on the United States and world economies. Rates for almost everything in the hospitality industry are significantly lower than they were a few years ago and it is safe to predict that they will increase as soon as the economy stabilizes. Do not be afraid to capitalize on this by reserving ahead, thereby locking in your rate a few years in advance.

Obviously, managing a non-profit organization is a tremendous challenge no matter what your vantage point. Whether you are a manager trying to maximize your available funding, a community liaison locating and recruiting new members, or a meeting coordinator working to creatively negotiate the use of affordable venues, working in the non-profit sector offers untold opportunities to make an important contribution to your community.  Keep up the good work!

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

July 2020

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