Memorial Day 2015 is just around the corner (May 25). it’s a USA national holiday that dates back to 1866, when Decoration Day was declared to honor soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp.
Today, we honor all our war dead on Memorial Day. Many nonprofit organizations over the years have launched memorial gift programs. Family members and friends of the war dead make tribute gifts in honor of the deceased to help a nonprofit that meant a lot to the fallen soldier, sailor, marine.
Now nonprofits have tribute programs. Supporters are encouraged to remember a deceased love one…or, honor a living person’s birthday or anniversary or college graduation with a special gift to help a charitable cause in the name of the loved friend or family member.
I recommend that if you have a newsletter that goes to your supporters, to encourage donors to make such gifts to support a nonprofit they care about in the name of a person…as a mark of celebration or a mark of remembrance.
The Board of Directors is an odd species.
Customarily, there are twelve to fifteen members. They meet regularly: Quarterly. Monthly. Alternate months.
Some Boards grow and develop nicely. What’s the correct potting soil mix? Amount of sunlight? Fertilizer (there’s usually an abundance of that available)…that fosters a thriving healthy Board to keep your Nonprofit mission in proper focus?
From my experience, and training at BoardSource and Leader to Leader and NH Association of Nonprofits, these are five of the keys to Nonprofit/Board success:
Active Governance Committee These are the keepers of the Holy Grail. They are on the lookout for new Board members who can contribute to data-driven decision-making. Who enjoy working with people.
Focused Meeting Agendas Once in a while, the discussion can get off-track. And once in a while this can be beneficial. But generally, Board leaders keep things moving and the give-and-take is targeted to issues that will help this group make intelligent, well-informed decisions.
Strategic Direction The Board knows where the organization is headed and stays focused on helping it accomplish the mission. At each meeting we hear about progress in achieving goals the Board has set.
Time for Play The Board takes time now and then for some social activities. Dinner and conversation. A learning experience that sheds new light on one of the nonprofit’s goals. It’s not all about the formal meetings.
Be Prepared Members come to meetings having read the attachments to the agenda. Leaders know that they can’t overload the work, or members will drift off. Keep agenda do-able in 2 hours.
Following these few steps can put you on the road to higher levels of effectiveness. And along with it, higher levels of Board member satisfaction. And that’s the truth!
From the time of Freddie Gray’s arrest Sunday, April 12 to his death in a Baltimore hospital on Sunday, April 19 it seemed (from the outside looking in) that Baltimore was simmering. Something was brewing, and it started to boil over (according to media reports) on Friday, April 24. Reports in national media linked the treatment of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police as symptomatic of a predominantly white police force handling African American residents they are sworn to protect with excessive force. Not on every occasion. Not every white officer. But it seemed there has been a small segment of the force that abuse their power.
This is not an unusual phenomenon in our USA. How can this be?
So now in recent days we have seen the backlash. The destruction of businesses, of private property, of police vehicles and against police themselves. We know that two wrongs don’t make it right. But we know desperate people commit desperate acts.
So where is Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in all this? Religious leaders? Sports heroes of the city? Where are the voices of people who all might listen to? Who will come to the neighborhoods and listen to what folks in the poorest blocks of Baltimore have to say?
Where is the problem-solving attitude?
Where are the nonprofit leaders of Baltimore in all this?
National media are giving us pictures of a burning CVS store. People making mayhem in the streets.
Why is it when I Google Baltimore, one of the first phrases I see is “Baltimore riots”?
Can we see some efforts of peace-makers trying to get the situation back to simmer?
Cities that can’t organize to resolve their problems give off a feeling of a cause that is lost.
If our leaders can’t bring the forces of the city together to resolve our problems they have lost their will to lead.
Who will step up?
Since April 15, 2013 when explosive devices went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, many New Englanders and others have opened their hearts and wallets in support of those who were damaged by this act of terrorism.
The One Fund was inaugurated by then-Mayor Menino to help victims. The on-scene medical response was one reason more deaths did not occur. Major hospitals in Boston had been doing work in emergency response. And respond they did with great effect.
The millions raised by One Fund, and related funds that were established have helped families recover.
One of the less-told stories of this terrible incident is the ability of an array of nonprofit organizations…including the major Boston hospitals…to react to crisis.
Learn more about One Fund and related funds here: https://secure.onefundboston.org/pages/donations.
There is strength in our urban core cities in the USA that often goes unrecognized.
At some point, each nonprofit organization should introduce a Planned Giving Program. The question is, when is the right time?
I think Planned Giving logically builds out from the annual fund. As your annual fund grows, maybe by the fifth year, and you have a newsletter in place, it’s the right time to ask donors to consider your nonprofit as a beneficiary in their will.
It helps to have an estate planner on your board. A person with expertise in writing wills or working with financial institutions in creating trust documents that can protect assets from probate. It’s very important to identify an experienced attorney in this area. Some States have Estate Planning Councils, and some States have persons certified to prepare such documents.
If your donor requests some help in this regard, you can provide some language to recommend for inclusion in the person’s will. I do not recommend that the nonprofit get involved in recommending specific attorneys to write wills. there should be an “arm’s length” relationship between the donor and the nonprofit so there is no conflict of interest that can call the ethics or even the legality of a document into question. Contact your State’s Bar Association and learn how they refer inquiries to competent estate planners. If it’s clear that only qualified, experienced planners make the list, you can feel reasonably confident that referring donors to the Bar Association can be beneficial.
When you look at newsletters of universities, hospitals, and voluntary health organizations you will see ads or articles on this subject with recommendations that the individual follow up with a person in the development office for advice on how to proceed. Your nonprofit may not have a development office. But you can have a volunteer attorney with estate planning experience who can assist you properly and help guide donors in a proper and ethical way.
There are other options to investigate, like charitable remainder trusts or charitable gift annuities that can be beneficial to the donor. Recruit competent volunteers to help you get organized. It might take a year of three to get this properly organized. But it’s worth the effort.