Finance & Strategy

Real world nonprofit finance matters, and real world thinking about strategies for financial, programmatic, and leadership sustainability. This column is written by Steve Zimmerman, principal of Spectrum Nonprofit Services.

photo of Steve Zimmerman

Succeeding When You’re Small: Lessons Learned from DonorsChoose.org

Although the Blue Avocado audience consists of community-based organizations, we can still learn from the experience of those who started a nonprofit out of their basement and grew to be nationally recognized leaders in the field.

DonorsChoose.org is one such organization. Started by Charles Best in 2000, it's a crowdfunding platform for public school teachers. The nonprofit was started in his own Bronx classroom when Charles needed resources for his students, and he found a way to connect people who want to help.

Achieving Equity: We Need a New Approach to Funding

Lately there has been a lot of focus on the issue of equity. "Equity" is obviously a broad term that encompasses a range of issues including income and wealth inequality, as well as economic opportunity. But at its core, equity is ultimately about creating a level playing field and ensuring that everyone has an honest chance at achieving their potential regardless of their race, gender, economic status, or zip code.

The Best Route to Approaching Donors: Hand-Head-Heart

As someone who began her career as a fund raiser and migrated to become a funder as head of a large corporate foundation, I have a somewhat unique vantage point on the struggle many nonprofits endure when engaging funders and major donors to support their cause. In speaking with executive and development officers who are charged with fundraising, I find it most helpful to convey some simple principles that I applied to maximize the return on the time and energy I put into achieving optimal fund development results.

Two free webinars help take your organization to the next level

What will you do to begin again this fall?

Of course it would be great to be one of those organizations that has tons of resources to attend conferences throughout the year and plan long, leisurely retreats to learn the latest best practices. But we live in the real world - one where we're often picking cheese puffs off the floor of our car as we drive from one obligation to the next. Using money for best practices means fewer dollars for other things (like paying the staff or paper for the printer, for example).

That's why the free webinars we're offering are so valuable. Not only can you enjoy them from the comfort of your office, but the price means you'll be able to sign up board members and key staff members as well! Back by popular demand, Your Part Time Controller will share review the FASB Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-14, which marks the largest change to nonprofit accounting guidelines in over 20 years.

Second up this month will be our third in our fundraising series. Darian Rodriguez Heyman will teach you how to build a fundraising board.

Sign up for these two terrific events happening in October.

Two free webinars help take your organization to the next level

Of course it would be great to be one of those organizations that has tons of resources to attend conferences throughout the year and plan long, leisurely retreats to learn the latest best practices. But we live in the real world - one where we're often picking cheese puffs off the floor of our car as we drive from one obligation to the next. Using money to follow best practices means there are fewer dollars available for other priorities (like paying the staff or buying paper for the printer, for example).

That's why the free webinars we're offering are so valuable. Not only can you enjoy them from the comfort of your office, but the price means you'll be able to sign up board members and key staff members as well!

Financial focus: You told us

In our April issue, we asked you to offer your thoughts on how the current political landscape will affect your organization's funding.

Your answers weren't surprising, but they weren't optimistic either.

That's understandable. It's tough to make sense of the world when the daily news includes the President pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, the previous FBI Director testifying about lies from the Oval Office, healthcare in limbo, and a budget proposal that eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the National Endowment for Humanities.

However, understanding the problem is the first step to finding solutions. In order to deliver services in the long-term, we need to make sure our organizations stay focused and have a financial plan.

These survey results underscore the need to remain focused by asking your organization's leadership and board the difficult questions.

Data Visualization: User-Centered Design

Our partner organization, Your Part-Time Controller, offers helpful advice on how U/X and user-centered design methods can better communicate visual stories in a way that advances the mission of your organization.

How to use data visualizations

Data visualizations are very useful for displaying data in a summarized and understandable way. When designed correctly, they can be aesthetically pleasing and helpful for explaining what is going on. When creating a visualization, what is the most important thing to keep in mind? The user. You are creating these visualizations for your audience so it is essential that their needs and requirements are met.

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