The New Era of Networking

In today’s world, networking online levels the playing field for many small businesses and nonprofits. Businesses can network and compete with anyone around the world. Whether finding new clients, raising money, or recruiting volunteers; you can network globally to get reliable solutions for your company.

Research suggests that networking helps businesses stay ahead of the curve by exposing them to thought leadership, best practices, upcoming trends, and insight into how other small businesses or nonprofits may be approaching similar issues. Building connections with people in the community you serve and with people who care about your mission will build more trust. These connections will lead to more possibilities, including major gifts and individual donations for nonprofits.

As a business or nonprofit leader, networking outside of your circle of friends or cultural norms may be uncomfortable at first but will likely improve over time as you continue to put yourself out there to gain more connections and network. Regardless of the cultural differences, improving your listening skills, remaining poised and confident, and sticking to your truths will always help. Forbes Nonprofit Council suggests networking sets the expectation that everyone gets out of their insular social and professional circles to build connections with colleagues and peers with whom they would not otherwise have come into contact. 

How often do you network online?

Get to know your network – make the most out of your connections by finding out what they are looking for and how you align with them. Networking opens a host of opportunities; including partnerships, new ventures, cross-promotions, investments, and more.

Things to keep in mind when networking;

  • Involvement – By telling your story and involving others, you are making them business partners in your company, not just spectators. This raises awareness and encourages continued support.
  • Goal-setting – By setting achievable goals in the business, you can strive toward those goals with others. Seeing the ribbon at the finish line fuels motivation.
  • Communication – Regular communication involves talking and listening. When the lines of communication are open and clear, trust evolves, and relationships thrive.
  • Review – Ongoing review and transparent feedback from KPIs or community outcomes enables others to reevaluate and readjust, when necessary, to get involved, offer help or give financial support.

When we provide small businesses and nonprofits with the tools to build fruitful relationships; we empower them to achieve their goals and garner desired results.

For more information and resources to support your small business or nonprofit, follow The Empowerment Center blog or join our email list.

Sustainable Practices in 2022

Business practices that are economically viable, socially responsible or environmentally friendly is usually regarded as being sustainable. Corporations that include socially responsible and environmentally sound policies as core elements in their growth strategy very often create sustainable economic values.

U.S. Census data shows that companies owned by women and people of color account for approximately 38% of all businesses. Yet these enterprises are the most disadvantaged when it comes to access to funding and advisors, executive leadership-building resources and more.

This is why The Empowerment Center works with entrepreneurs to empower them with tools and resources while breaking down barriers that stand in the way of starting and growing their businesses and nonprofits.

Most entrepreneurs need a supportive ecosystem to thrive and scale

Networking 

People love supporting local businesses. According to a survey sponsored by American Express, 9 out of 10 Americans agreed that it was important to support the small businesses in their community, and 73% consciously tried to do just that. The people around you want you to succeed. Having a network in your own community helps gain access to more funding and resources for your nonprofit or small business.

Educational Resources 

There are a whole lot of resources, both online and offline, where you can hone your business skills, learn new strategies, and make sure you’re staying on top of the ever-evolving business world. Reading from different business genres and gaining multiple perspectives helps small business owners and founders gain more innovation and overall leadership skills.

Here are several books you may find helpful in navigating your business:

Mentorship Programs

Having a mentor or few with business experience is a crucial part of your professional development. Opportunities are attached to people. The Empowerment Center founder is even a mentor. Your mentor can provide you with support and advice when you need it — and, if you choose wisely, they’ll learn how to deliver that support in a way that makes sense to you.

Financing 

Bootstrapping, seed funding, equity crowdfunding, grants, loans. You may recognize these terms as different small business and nonprofit revenue options, but how do you know which are best or most suitable for your business?

The growth of any nonprofit or business can be categorized in roughly five stages; Startup, Survival, Success, Take-off, and Maturity. Each stage brings new financing challenges and opportunities for investment. There are several ways to get financial support at various points of growth, and what’s right for one business might be unsustainable for another business. There are many paths to success for nonprofits and small businesses.

Developing a lasting and supportive ecosystem requires support during all stages in the business cycle. Joining and creating ecosystems includes involving minor and major stakeholders, and partners [to] other entrepreneurs, and small businesses.

Budgeting to make Progress

Understanding budgets are a part of work some nonprofit leaders never grow to like but are necessary for building capacity. Budgets tell a story and paint a picture for how your nonprofit operates and how well it stewards finances.

All nonprofits operate differently. Oftentimes, the budget will reflect unique financial needs. Here we’ve outlined some best practices that may help on the journey of nonprofit growth!

  1. Review financial reports quarterly. Take note of any unordinary expenses. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about regular expenses, new expenses, and large expenses.
  2. Approve your budget annually at minimum and place it in your board meeting minutes. It should be accessible to board members at all times.
  3. Be transparent about your budget. Your donors and stakeholders will place more trust in your board and in your organization when they have the opportunity to see how much money is coming in, how much money goes out, and how you allocate funds.
  4. Strive to equal or exceed your expenses. It’s good practice to have a reasonable amount of money allocated for cash flow to avoid having a deficit.
  5. Consider restraints or limitations on gifts or grants in your budget. Some grantors may offer a grant with payouts over a period of months or years. Factor the revenue at the time it comes in. Also, be aware of any limitations of what you can spend grant or gift money on.
  6. Evaluate your budget history. You may have larger expenses in certain months than others. Fundraising events and the timing of large donations also have a big impact on your budget. You can always amend your budget as necessary to account for variations.

Budgets are living documents that you will need to revisit throughout the year. Make sure you are reviewing your budget with your board and maintaining transparency on cash flow and expense reports at least two times yearly. If there are issues that need to be addressed, you should address them immediately and create plans in advance for any deficits that come up as well as surpluses. Lastly, keep your budgets updated, clean, and professional-looking for donors and stakeholders. Fundraising is highly competitive, so make sure to take every opportunity to stand out above the rest!

For more information, support or help budgeting and navigating nonprofit finance, visit our contact us page or email us at info@theempowermentcleveland.com. Until next time!

What’s a Capital Campaign?

The best thing a nonprofit can do is bring in diversified capital and donations. At the core, a capital campaign is a drawn-out extensive fundraiser. On a complex level, a capital campaign is a concerted effort to raise a substantial amount of money for a specific program in a specific time frame. They require support from board members, staff, and individuals in the community. Capital campaigns are often used to raise money for space or a new building but they could also be for the acquisition of land, expansion of an existing building, or the purchase of large-scale operating equipment or supplies.

When planning a capital campaign you want to make sure to map out the scope and size of the funding for the program or project. One of the ways you can do this is by developing a strategic plan and having several strategy sessions with your fundraising committee or other consultants on your team. You should arrive at a number after careful calculations and accounting for hidden costs. Your target deadline will depend on your financial target and the pool of donors you expect to donate. Again, this is typically a long-term campaign and could range from 1 year to 5 years but may also be over a shorter term with a prime fundraising goal. Take into account also how much running the capital campaign will cost. You’ll need to account for marketing materials, costs for events, and other fundraising expenses that may occur.

People you should consider for your capital campaign committee:

  • Board Members
  • Staff Members
  • Major Gift Donors
  • Volunteer Leaders
  • Community Leaders

Keep in mind, that capital campaigns are for large projects and most nonprofits that take on such projects are clear and confident in the support they have in the community. They are strategic and often require a feasibility study that brings input from several community leaders, such as mayors and local representatives; staff, that may have valuable insight and reservations you hadn’t thought of; and key volunteers or board members, to make for a successful campaign.

Many times, nonprofits need help from an outside source during their capital campaigns. Make sure to find the best fit for your organization.

Need guidance on finding the right supports and strategies for your nonprofit? We are here to help!

Thanks for reading!

Founders Edition: Building Bridges

The most effective nonprofit founders are “in touch” with the community their organization serves. They aren’t afraid to make speeches, meet and greet, network, and be visible in and to the community. A good nonprofit leader isn’t going to get very far if they aren’t interacting with the community they serve.

Becoming a founder of any business can be hard. Getting the right support to stay the course is important for the longevity of any nonprofit organization or business. Relationship building and stakeholder management are vital aspects of a nonprofit organization’s efforts to create social change. Working with a variety of internal and external stakeholders is done on a regular basis. For example, certain nonprofits may rely upon hospitals or shelters as facilities for their programs, while others may turn to young people in their neighborhoods as key participants in a grassroots, community-organizing campaign

The modern nonprofit leader will demonstrate a melding of private sector business acumen and traditional nonprofit attributes such as that with community engagement. Even more, nonprofits must engage with an expansive set of stakeholders, all of whom are seeking different relationships and connections with the nonprofit: individuals, foundations, and corporates, the local government entities, various boards/committees, volunteers, and others as its key stakeholders.

Nonprofit leaders often have to sell, be influencers, advocates and activist. They could be negotiating or making case for everything from event space, grants, major gifts, to cheaper office rent. This is why it’s key that they’re effective communicators. As a nonprofit leader you must learn to effectively navigate and build consensus amongst multiple and diverse stakeholders.

Great nonprofit leaders must share their vision, and put stock in the opinions of team members at all levels. Their decision-making is collaborative. They encourage people to have their own opinions and share them. The most successful modern nonprofit founders genuinely care about their people. They take personal responsibility for making the team feel fulfilled, productive, and motivated.

What does being a nonprofit leader mean to you and how are you leading as a founder?

Thanks for reading! Have questions or comments? Email us at education@theempowermentcleveland.com.

The Good and Bad of Fiscal Sponsorship

Fiscal sponsorship, at its core, is when a nonprofit organization extends its tax-exempt status to select groups engaged in activities related to the organization’s mission. Most often, fiscal sponsorship is used by organizations, individuals, or collaborations who are doing charitable work but who want an alternative to becoming a 501(c)(3) organization with the IRS. In a fiscal sponsorship arrangement, the sponsor accepts tax deductible donations and grants on behalf of the sponsored project/organization. The sponsor accepts responsibility for the use of those funds and ensures their application toward charitable purposes, along with any additional donor restrictions. To ensure this is not merely a pass-through of charitable dollars from the 501(c)(3) to the project, the IRS requires that the sponsor have “complete discretion and control” over the funds.

Sponsorship can be an empowering tool that can help get projects off the ground that otherwise wouldn’t make it. But it does mean that the relationship needs to be carefully considered.

Fiscal Partnerships

After ensuring you fully understand potential risks involved, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why are we doing this? Does it make sense to get other forms of support instead? Are we doing this for the right reasons?
  • What is our relationship with the fiscal sponsor, and their organization’s funders or other involved parties?
  • Do we have any conflicts of interest that need to be reviewed?
  • How fiscally responsible is the potential fiscal sponsor?
  • How transparent will they be with funds being held for our fiscally sponsored projects, both internal and external?
  • Under what circumstances do we terminate a fiscal sponsorship relationship?
  • Do we fully understand the requirements and implications of the sponsorship?

Making sure you have done due diligence in screening your fiscal agency is important and part of your responsibility as a leader of the organization you serve.

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What’s a Needs Assessment?

There are so many nonprofits in the United States. To be more specific there are approximately 1.6 million. With so many nonprofits, how does a nonprofit stand out amongst the crowded space?

A needs assessment is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired condition. A needs assessment is more or less a research project. You don’t necessarily need to hold to the strict requirements of scientific inquiry, but just as you do when collecting information to help guide research planning, you should do everything possible to ensure that the information is accurate and free of bias.

Many nonprofits are repetitive in community services and often are similar in target populations. However, they are not the same when it comes down to operations, procedures, and methodology. Needless to say, that may be a good start to building your argument to “stand out” amongst the crowd. Yet, how much you stand out and risk deviating from the norm could make or break you as an “advocate for cause”.

Doing the proper research and community assessment could provide key insight into your community target population’s greatest needs and strategies for your program design.

Assessing Community Needs

Start by asking these 5 questions:

  • Do we need to meet any special requirements for providing the program? Does the program need to be near good public transportation? Is parking important? Will people come to the neighborhood where you’re providing the services?
  • What are the trends? Will the number of people using the service increase or decrease in the future? Is the population in your community increasing, decreasing, or staying the same? If you begin with 25 clients, how many clients do you expect to have in three years?
  • Are other organizations providing the same service? Obviously, you don’t want to duplicate services if another organization is already doing the job. If you believe that your competition isn’t doing a good job, that’s another question. Jump to the second point.
  • How many people might use the service? Getting a good estimate of the number of people the new program will serve is important. Doing so helps you justify establishing the program and helps you plan for staff needs.
  • Can and will people pay for the service? If so, how much? How many of the people you hope to serve will need discounted tuition or scholarships, for example?

Overall, having the right information to move your nonprofit forward and become a thought leader in your community may start with a needs assessment.

For more information about The Empowerment Center services, schedule an appointment or contact us at (216) 255-5151.

Grant Management Essentials

Grants are essential to nonprofit sustainability and can often impact an organization’s overall growth . But what does a nonprofit do once they get awarded the grant they so desperately need to keep their program running?

Getting a grant awarded is great but there is more work to be done after the grant is won. As a leading provider of grant management solutions we understand how frustrating the life cycle of a grant can be and staying on top of grant regulations and requirements. We know the importance of meeting deadlines, transparency and accurate financial details. Having a good grants management system can help you build capacity with less stress and more efficiency.

It’s critical to consistently monitor your grants and maintain a working relationship with the Grant Maker. This improves all chances of your project running smoothly. There is ever-changing legislation around grants and reporting requirements. Failure to comply could cost you critical grant funding.

For example, one common grant condition is the funding term. Having one year to spend all grant monies may seem easy but may be harder than you’d guess if unplanned expectations or program milestones are involved. Know such conditions before going after grants and prepare, prepare, prepare for proper positioning for good grant stewardship.

When drafting a funding request, some grant applications ask what your goals, evaluation, and reporting process look like. If you haven’t set goals before your grant application and just threw some goals together, you may have set your organization up for failure down the road.

Better Grant Management

  • When choosing a Grant, put your mission first. Ensure your mission and the grant makers mission are a good fit.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to include your finance department or sit with a grants professional or a CPA to develop your budgets and overall expenses. Grant proposals require a well put together budget.
  • Understand all the costs involved. Will you need additional operating funds?
  • Plan to monitor and track. Grant giving organizations require recipients to submit details upon request.

For more information or to learn about how we can help your nonprofit, contact us or email info@theempowermentcleveland.com

Embracing Technology as a Nonprofit

Technology, AI, and advanced machine learning is growing and becoming a fixed part of our society. Futurists and other experts are predicting a massive shift in the way we do work and business operations, from doctors to accountants.

TechSoup and the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network, known as NTEN, regularly publish studies that highlight the gap between nonprofits’ tech needs and their ability to be empowered to meet those needs. An NTEN report last year found nearly 70 percent of nonprofits had to make an additional investment in technology to continue operations during the pandemic.

So what should nonprofits do to avoid being left behind?

Ask these 3 questions:

1. How fast does your organization serve a client from onboarding to exiting?

2. Do you have an efficient Customer Relationship Management or CRM system in place that you can use to pull reports and outcomes quickly?

3. Are there systems and tools in place for remote workers and virtual community outreach?

The Big Technology Shift

Shifting your organizations’ infrastructure to support IT will need to be revisited for best practices and solutions regularly. Things you should include in your technology; things such as digital tools, tech skills training, and enhance cybersecurity.

To date, providing tech infrastructure has been the purview of technology vendors and nonprofit organizations such as NetHope, NTEN, TechSoup, and Tech Impact, which offer a range of sometimes overlapping solutions, including technology assessments, training, support, and discounted software. None of these organizations alone supports the full range of nonprofit tech needs, and they often compete with one another for funding, typically from individual foundations.

In the end, be sure to shop around and learn which IT support would work best for your nonprofit team and service population.

Was this article helpful? Have topics or writing you’d like to share for The Empowerment Center blog? Email us at info@theempowermentcleveland.com

The Impact of Change Management

Businesses must constantly evolve and adapt to meet a variety of challenges—from changes in technology to the rise of new competitors to a shift in laws, regulations, or underlying economic trends. Failure to do so could lead to stagnation or, worse, failure.

Approximately 50 percent of all organizational change initiatives are ineffective, highlighting why getting help from a consultant to plan for, coordinate, and carry out change can help managers and business leaders alike increase their organization’s overall impact.

WHAT IS CHANGE MANAGEMENT?

Organizational change refers broadly to the actions a business takes to change or adjust a significant component of its organization. This may include company culture, internal processes, underlying technology or infrastructure, corporate hierarchy, or another critical aspect.

Crafting a Vision and Planning for Change

Once the organization is ready to embrace change, managers must develop a thorough and realistic plan for bringing it about. The plan should detail:

  • Strategic goals: What goals does this change help the organization work toward?
  • Key performance indicators: How will success be measured? What metrics need to be moved? What’s the baseline for how things currently stand?
  • Project stakeholders and team: Who will oversee the task of implementing change? Who needs to sign off at each critical stage? Who will be responsible for implementation?
  • Project scope: What discrete steps and actions will the project include? What falls outside of the project scope?

MANAGING CHANGE EFFECTIVELY

While no two change initiatives are the same, they typically follow a similar process. To effectively manage change, managers and business leaders must thoroughly understand the steps involved.

Some other tips for managing change include asking yourself questions like:

  • What’s happening to make change necessary? Without this understanding, it can be difficult to effectively address the underlying causes that have necessitated change, hampering your ability to succeed.
  • Whats the plan? Without a detailed plan and defined strategy, it can be difficult to usher a change initiative through to completion.
  • How will change be communicated? Successful change management requires effective communication with both your team members and key stakeholders. Designing a communication strategy with a consultant can help.

DEVELOPING THE SKILLS YOU NEED FOR SUCCESS

Once the change initiative has been completed, change managers must prevent a reversion to the prior state or status quo. This is particularly important for organizational change related to processes, workflows, culture, and strategies. Without an adequate plan, employees may backslide into the “old way” of doing things, particularly during the transitory period.

Conducting analysis and review, or a “project post mortem,” can help business leaders understand whether a change initiative was a success, failure, or mixed result. It can also offer valuable insights and lessons that can be leveraged in future change efforts.

By embedding changes within the company’s culture and practices, it becomes more difficult for backsliding to occur. New organizational structures, controls, and reward systems should all be considered as tools to help change stick.

If you’ve been asked to lead a change initiative within your organization, or you’d like help to position your organization to take on such projects in the future, it’s critical to begin laying the groundwork for success by talking with a consultant to develop the right path to equip your organization and get the job done right.

Does your organization need help to manage change? Speak with one of our consultants and find out how we can help. Take charge of change for your nonprofit or organization’s development and get equipped with the right tools you will need for change management.