Summer is a time of rest and reflection. For nonprofit organizations, it is often a time for planning the coming year’s activities. Regardless of your organization’s cycle, now may be a great time to assess your board’s effectiveness and consider improvements. Here are five ways to do so.
1) Board Size Matters
State laws often mandate a minimum number of board members for nonprofits, although many boards exceed the minimum. The size and makeup of your board depend on your organization’s needs. You want to balance skills and diverse thinking. However, too many people may result in “analysis paralysis,” or ineffective decision making. A rule of thumb is between three and fifteen board members for a small company. Larger boards are often sub-divided by role. Regardless of size, structure your work to be done in smaller committees to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
2) “Who” is as Important as “How Many”
You want a balance of skills, experience, backgrounds, and interests. Certainly everyone on your board should be passionate about your cause. In addition, you need people who are good listeners, good fundraisers, good organizers, and good communicators. Set clear expectations for the board members and make sure everyone knows about them. Got a bad seed in the mix? Don’t we all? Make sure that your bylaws include conditions for removing people from the board as well as term limits to keep the pool fresh.
3) Make Your Meetings Effective
Board meetings are an inevitable part of running a non-profit. Major decisions are made at board meetings. Have an established agenda, and make sure that everyone understands the desired outcome of each agenda item. Respect everyone’s time by making sure you move through the agenda at a reasonable pace, while still leaving room for discussion. Speaking of discussion, set ground rules for discussions so that everyone’s voice is heard and that different points of view are acknowledged and contribute to the best possible decisions. Combative, coercive, or belligerent board members can undermine the group dynamic. However, a silent board, where no one contributes to the discussion, is also troublesome.
4) Have Clear and Documented Roles and Responsibilities of the Board vs. the Executive Director
A common concern is the relationship between the board and the executive director. The executive director typically has an enormous responsibility to run the organization and yet, he/she reports to a diverse committee. Imagine reporting to a committee of many people? It isn’t easy. Step one of forming an effective relationship is to have roles and responsibilities clearly articulated and documented. The board should be responsible for governance, not day-to-day management (or worse, the dreaded “micro-management”).
5) Protect Your Directors and Officers from Personal Liability with D&O Insurance
Your bylaws should include how your nonprofit protects its directors and officers. Directors and Officers Liability Insurance (D&O Insurance) enables your nonprofit to indemnify your directors and officers, protecting them from loss or harm resulting from risk. D&O insurance directly reimburses directors and officers for legal costs that the nonprofit cannot or will not pay. In the case where the nonprofit does pay, D&O insurance reimburses the nonprofit.
Rollins insurance wants your non-profit organization to succeed. While we can’t pick your board of directors dream team, we can help you get the best D&O coverage to handle financial risk resulting from legal actions. Contact us for information.
Photo Credit: Angie Torres via Photopin cc
There’s nothing worse than a washed up, frazzled, or burnt out volunteer to drag down your organization’s energy. As a nonprofit, you likely need volunteers to keep you running effectively and economically. Volunteers have a variety of motivations for working with you: they could be giving back to an organization that has helped them or their family; they may feel a sense of duty, obligation, or purpose; or they may be using their work with you an opportunity to get experience or build skills in a new field.You want to make sure they enjoy the work, feel a sense of accomplishment, and feel acknowledged for their contributions. The guidelines below will help you succeed.
Share your vision
As a leader, it is your job to explain to the volunteers the overall vision and mission for your organization. Sharing your vision gives volunteers an appreciation of the larger goal. Volunteers also want to understand how the work they do contributes to that vision. The work can sometimes be grueling and thankless, but if there is a clear connection to the higher purpose, your volunteers will feel good about the work they do.
Your nonprofit should have a clear and organized set of policies and instructions, especially since you may have many part-time, temporary, and transient volunteer workers. Without clear instructions, people may waste time doing rogue work or rework, and no one likes to waste time. Setting measurable goals for volunteers helps them stay on task and feel a sense of accomplishment. Follow-ups from leadership are important guideposts to success. Make sure, however, that the work has some challenge built in and is not all drudgery. Be open to having volunteers carve out their own responsibilities or suggest ways you haven’t thought of to accomplish the work.
Match the Skills and Desires of the Volunteer to the Task
Ever have someone who hates to lead be put in a position of leadership? Or a math-o-phobe be chartered with balancing the books for a multi-million-dollar campaign? Disaster. Work with the volunteers to understand where they want to provide their service and how you can create a win-win match. Make sure there are a variety of roles for all types and skill levels of volunteers. Recognize too that some people are volunteering to get away from their day jobs, so don’t assume they want to pursue the same volunteer activity that they do at their 9-5 job.
One of the most important things you can do is acknowledge the contributions of your volunteers. Frequent “thank yous” are appreciated, of course. Even more important, most people love public recognition, such as awards ceremonies, parties, and dinners. Whenever possible, share kudos and news from outside. Offer letters of recommendation or other documentation for the volunteers’ current or future employers.
As important as it is to recruit volunteers, it is also important to know when to end the volunteer relationships. Especially with higher pressure leadership positions, have a defined end point and an exit strategy for your volunteers so that they do not burn out. Look for ways to “promote” junior people to assume roles with more responsibility, and build a pipeline of fresh talent.
Rollins wants you to have a happy, motivated, and efficient and effective volunteer community to help your non-profit organization succeed. The work you do is too important to expect anything less.
Photo Credit: Barack Obama Campaign via Photopin cc
As a nonprofit organization, you most likely depend upon volunteers to help you thrive, whether they are volunteering on an ongoing basis or pitching in for special events. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 64.5 million people volunteered in the United States through or for an organization at least once between September 2011 and September 2012. Numbers of volunteers seem to be increasing slightly, possibly the result of the Volunteer Protection Act, which limits lawsuits for volunteers. While the increase in volunteers is great news for non-profits, volunteer participation is not without risk. You need to consider ways to protect your organization from exposure due to volunteer actions.
What is the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA)?
The Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) was signed into law in 1997 to encourage people to participate in social service organizations on a voluntary basis. The VPA states that "No volunteer of a nonprofit organization or governmental entity shall be liable for harm caused by an act or omission of the volunteer acting on behalf of the organization or entity."
Under the VPA, volunteers are protected as long as they adhere to a set of conditions, such as the following:
· They have proper licenses or certificates for the job they are performing
· Any harm caused is not as a result of operating a motor vehicle
· Any harm caused is not “caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed.”
· Volunteer actions are not found to be crimes of violence, hate, sexual in nature; are not committed while under the influence of alcohol; or are not violations of civil rights, labor, or tax provisions.
States may impose additional conditions on volunteers under this Act.
What is missing from the Volunteer Protection Act?
The Volunteer Protection Act is a worthy piece of legislation. However, while the VPA protects volunteers against litigation arising from their social service, it does not protect the nonprofit organization itself from litigation. The organization may still be liable for the negligent actions of the volunteer. Furthermore, compensated individuals, including employees and any compensated officers, are not immune from litigation.
How can you protect your nonprofit from liability?
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance protects your organization from lawsuits involving bodily injury and property damage. The policy automatically covers the "business" named on the policy as well as employees. You should consider adding volunteers as insured.
Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability Insurance
D&O Liability Insurance serves to protect an individual and entity against significant exposures which may not be covered under volunteer protection laws. Until a court determines whether the volunteer protection law applies to a volunteer, D&O insurance can serve to indemnify the association and volunteer against legal defense costs.
Volunteer Accident Insurance
Volunteer accident policies provide a certain limit of coverage, usually for medical expenses. They respond when a volunteer is injured in an accident while engaged in activities for the benefit of the organization.
Rollins wants your organization, and your valued volunteers, to be protected as you perform your important services to your community. Contact your Rollins representative for more information on how we can help you.
Photo Credit: Dave Bezaire and Susi Havens-Bezaire via Photopin cc
A recent outbreak of Norovirus at one of Westchester County's largest and most elegant hotels for events and business meetings caused hundreds of illnesses and led to event cancellations for several days.
Workers were forced to stay home, sections of the hotel had to be industrially cleaned, and major revenue-generating events were cancelled. The hotel clearly suffered revenue losses and unforeseen cleanup costs.
This is the type of situation where Showstoppers® insurance would minimize the financial impact significantly. Showstoppers® offers protection for loss of revenue due to cancellation, abandonment, curtailment, or re-scheduling of your events, with several options. Showstoppers® also pays for losses due to reduced attendance at a continued event—full cancellation of an event may not be required. In the hotel's case, an extra "communicable disease" endorsement, at a modest cost, would have covered the cancelled events.
Coverage is available for large and small events. The 2012 New York City Marathon, which generates approximately $23 million, was cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy. Marathon organizers, the New York Road Runners Club, have been working to recoup losses based on their event insurance.
Standard features of Showstoppers® Event Cancellation insurance include:
Non-Appearance of a Principal Speaker
Adverse Weather for Golf Outings
Requisition or Confiscation of the Venue
Remedial Action and Extra Expenses
Penalties for Failure to Vacate
Future Marketing Expenses
Enhanced coverages and features are available for events $125,000 or less, physical loss of personal property, terrorism, and more. Specific terms and conditions vary, depending on the policy and enhanced coverages selected. Rollins Insurance can help you choose the best Event Cancellation Policy for your needs. As peak event season is upon us, you should speak with your Rollins representative to determine the appropriate event cancellation options for your event.
Photo Credit: John K via Photopin cc
As a non-profit, you are likely to have a small or even non-existent marketing budget. After all, your goal is to gain new donors and members, not to get “paying customers.”
However, if you think like a marketer, you may find more effective ways to convey your image, increase awareness for your cause, inspire confidence in your organization, and build relationships.
Here are five strategies all non-profits can use, even with tight resources and low budgets.
1. Build your brand. Your brand tells the world who you are, what you stand for, what your personality is, and how you are different from your competition. All your communications, including your logo, your brochures, emails, social media interactions, and phone conversations, should reinforce your brand. Consistency is key. Your print materials do not need to be fancy—if they are too slick, people may wonder about how you are spending their dollars.
2. Create your “elevator pitch.” Your elevator pitch is a 30-second explanation of what you do and how you are unique. Everyone, including your officers, volunteers and members, should be able to deliver your elevator pitch.
3. Publicize your stories. Send interesting stories about your activities and good works, about special members, or about events to local newspapers and television stations. These help get the word out about your organization without using advertising dollars.
4. Use social media. Social media tools are generally “free” (except for the time it takes to feed them), and they are designed to allow people without a technical background to create a presence. To build and maintain your network of supporters and members, you should consider building a Facebook page, a Linkedin page, and a blog. See what your competition is doing. There are many creative ways to promote your cause.
5. Establish your content calendar. With all these ways to share your organization’s message, and most likely, with a distributed network of volunteers supporting you, you need to make sure that you are not bombarding the world with your message one week and then falling silent for the next six weeks. Create a content calendar to manage and balance your communications. A content calendar is a schedule of what is being distributed, where, when, and by whom. Consistency builds both trust and anticipation in your audience.
These are all helpful ideas, but how and where do you find resources to implement them? In addition to your volunteer members, consider recruiting college students or high school students, who may be interested to work as interns for school or volunteer credit.
Rollins wants to see you succeed and grow, and we are here to provide support for the health of your organization as well as your members.
Photo Credit: GinneRobot via PhotoPin cc
If you are a nonprofit, you should be aware that Governor Cuomo signed into effect new compensation limits for executives of New York State-funded nonprofit organizations. There are two pieces to the legislation:
· $199,000 Annual Compensation Cap for “covered executives” at “covered providers”.
· At least 75% of state-authorized payments for
compensation costs must be used to provide direct care or services. This percent increases by 5% annually until it reaches 85% in 2015.
Is your business affected?
photo credit: JMR_Photography via photopin cc
You are affected if your nonprofit receives more than $500,000 and 30% of its funding through New York State. A “covered executive” includes anyone who is a director, trustee, managing partner, or officer of a covered provider, as well as any employee with compensation of $199,000 or more. In addition, executives of related organizations that provide administrative/ program services are considered “covered executives.” There are exceptions—see below. Make sure you speak to your accountant to find out how this affects your business.
How is “compensation” calculated?
The cap applies to total compensation, including salary, bonuses, direct and indirect benefits. There are two exclusions:
· The value of any benefits provided to all the organization’s employees.
· Compensation paid to the executive for program services outside of his or her managerial or policy-making duties.
Are there exceptions?
Executives at organizations that receive significant funds from the federal government and private donors may not be affected by this order. This includes hospital executives, who can be compensated above the $199,000 cap with private funds.
Also, covered providers can request exceptions to the $199,000 cap as long as they demonstrate that the executive’s pay is 75% or less of compensation for comparable providers’ compensation. In this case, the exception needs to be approved by the Board or governing body, with two independent members on board. Waivers allowing higher payments are limited to one reporting period and require approval from the New York State funding source.
What does this mean your non-profit organization?
Speak to your accountant for guidance on complying with this regulation. According to Rob Cordero, CPA, Senior Manager at O’Connor Davies, LLP; “A proactive and systematic approach should be adopted by all nonprofit entities receiving New York State funds and/or State-authorized payments. A thorough review of executive compensation including a comparative pay study is essential for all entities with executives earning compensation and benefits which exceeds $199,000.”
At Rollins, we strive to keep you apprised of the latest changes that could affect your nonprofit organization and the people you help through your important work.
It may be hard to think like a start-up, but taking a close look at the options available to new business today may help you find ways to save money as you grow.
Begin by taking a close look at where your money goes each month.
For most businesses, the two major expense categories tend to be labor and occupancy costs. It makes sense to start here, but other areas to consider looking at include the cost of tangibles and consumables, like the physical supplies needed to run your business, as well as the non-tangibles, like promotional expenses and insurance.
So, if you were building your business today, how would you answer the following questions?
How and where would you staff your business?
Technology has opened the doors to a global labor pool and that means there are many more options today on how and where your work is performed. While many businesses have sourced their work in foreign countries, you don't have to go to China or India to save money on quality labor.
Lower cost of living markets within the U.S. may have freelancers, small businesses and even full-time remote employee options to consider. Many back-office services, from accounting and bill-paying, to sales can be farmed out. The benefits of working with businesses that focus on one or more services, is the attention to detail they can provide. Their reputation depends on the quality of their service, so you may find it works out well for you. Ask for references and check them out. (There are even services you can use for that. The Internet is a great resource for finding them.)
How much space do you need?
This is not an easy question to answer. Physical space comes in all varieties, from storage areas to professional offices fully furnished with special equipment. Depending on the type of business you have, and whether or not your clients come to you, your needs will differ. Also, if you have worked out arrangements with other businesses to handle some of your back-office needs, you may be able to save on rent for those types of services.
An ideal situation would be to pay for only what you need, when you need it. Real estate manegement companies have come up with some creative ways to solve those flexible needs. Many large office buildings now have hourly and daily rentals of everything from conference rooms to executive office suites, and with the ability to connect to virtually anyone at any time, you might consider having some oof your employees work from remote offices or from home.
What equipment, software and supplies do you need?
This is an area that has undergone major changes in the last two decades. Cloud computing and Internet access have changed everything when it comes to what and when you buy, and that goes for everything from computers to ink. It is possible to rent the software you need a month at a time, and it is always up-to-date with the latest revision. You can even get training online for those who need it, and those documents, presentations, marketing material and books can be printed at the local office supply store in as little as an hour.
For those absolute must-have supplies, buying in bulk is an option, but that can lead to storage problems, so it pays to consider all the options before making your purchase.
How can I take advantage of technology in promoting my business?
While traditional advertising is far from dead, there are many new ways to create a buzz and build a brand, and they all don't rely on Social Media or Search Engine Optimization.
Existing businesses have an advantage over new businesses; they have existing customers. Building and maintaining strong relationships with existing customers helps to get repeat business and new customers. The success of business rating sites (like Angie's List) is a good example of the power and popularity of referrals. Encouraging customers to share their experiences with your business means you need to do a consistently good job at what you do.
Yes, getting them to "Like" your Facebook page helps, but getting them to say something on camera is even better. Hold an event at your location, or online, and get that feedback. Then share it with others.
How do I manage it all?
This is the hardest part. With constant and continuous connectivity, we can all easily find ourselves "working" twenty-four-hours-a-day. That's not healthy, and it is impossible. So, it is important to take a look at everything you are doing at least once a year. If you find you are spending too much time on something and it isn't yielding the results you need, either stop doing it altogether, or farm it out to someone who can manage it for you.
Every business has access to nearly every possible resource, thanks to the Internet and advances in technology. There is no excuse anymore. Find the right advisors and experts in every field and talk with them. Pick the best and do business with them. In the end, you may find there are no llimits to how much you can do and how your business can grow.
For more information on managing your business needs and costs, click here.
What makes us productive at work?
At the peak of the Industrial Age, when the workplace was predominantly the factory floor, Frederick Winslow Taylor published a breakthrough work that gave birth to a whole new industry, Management Consulting.
The work was called, The Principles of Scientific Management, and it focused on, among other things, tracking employee time in the performance of a particular task.
Productivity was measured in tasks completed per unit of time. That meant the faster one could perform a task, the faster the plant could run the assembly line, and the greater the company profits.
With the advent of the "Knowlegde worker," Taylor's time management techniques fell to the wayside, since productivity was no longer a factor of tasks completed. The most productive people, it seems, saved time and money by solving problems, learning from past experiences, and developing new approaches to the problem.
Suddenly, the time spent at the water cooler was no longer automatically considered wasted, since it could be used to build new relationships, network with team members from other departments, or simply taking time to think.
How does a manager know if these informal and undocumented interactions contribute to the bottom line, or detract from it?
The answer may be in your hands, overhead and hanging around your neck right now, thanks to facial recognition software, video cameras and the technology of GPS (Global Positioning Satellites).
According to a recent article in Business Insider, companies are testing ways to monitor and track workplace behavior, not to spy on any one individual, but to gain an understanding of what interactions work and which don't.
If it sounds like Big Brother is watching, it is, but the jury may still be out on whether this is an invasion of personal privacy, or a way for employees to finally get the recognition for building and maintaining effective relationships in the workplace.
The new management consultants are tech savvy firms which focus on this type of analysis. They provide the equipment to capture video from security cameras, pick up conversations in the halls, conference rooms, and other areas in the workplace, and with embedded chips in ID cards, they track movement within the building.
So far, businesses using this approach have only implemented this for participants who sign a form agreeing to be tracked for the purpose of the studies. With enough participants, a picture of the company's culture can be developed, which could change the way management awards performance. This could be a good thing for employees, and that is why some agree to be monitored.
Individual conversations and personal activity is not provided to the employer by the management consulting form, so there is some confidentiality involved, but the bigger issues and concerns for the future remain unresolved. How far is too far, and how much privacy should one expect as an employee of a company?
In other words, could companies implement such an approach wthout telling its employees?
That question requires some careful thought, given the potential liabilities that may be involved. This is an area worth watching, and it will most likely generate much discussion on both sides of the value proposition surrounding workplace productivity. We will be watching and reporting what we learn.
For more information on workplace privacy, click here.
"A man's reputation is not in his own keeping, but lies at the mercy of the profligacy of others." - William Hazlitt, from his essay, "Characteristics" published in 1823.
What the noted essayist and social commentator wrote 190 years ago holds true today, not just for people, but for businesses, organizations and institutions at all levels as well. What we have control over is what we do and how well we do it. What we have no control over is what people say about us.
News Travels Fast, Bad News Travels Faster
In Hazlitt's day, news and word-of-mouth traveled much slower than today. If someone started a rumor about someone, alluding to some impropriety or aberrant behavior, they could easily become the "talk of the town." They would have had more of a fighting chance back then to address the rumor before thousands or millions of people heard about it. Not so today with Youtube, Twitter, and dozens of social network sites.
What is said about us, our products, our services, our employees, or even our place of business could have devestating effects on the bottom line. And it doesn't even have to be something based in fact to get airplay. So, it makes a great deal of sense to become aware of the chatter before it becomes a buzz. A good place to start is to know what people, companies and others know or can find out about us today.
1. What do people and firms know about us?
There are several ways to find out what the world knows about us, ranging from conducting Internet searches and research ourselves, to hiring experts who will do it for us.
I like the idea of bringing in the experts, as long as the benefits outweigh the cost. While the real cost of a bad reputation can be quite high, spending money when everything seems OK is hard to do.
2. Where do we find experts?
The good news is there are many. For this article, we decided to try one that offers a free basic service for individuals that is focused on information privacy. The more information we provide to this service, the more helpful the system is in giving us a picture of where our information is being maintained.
We were amazed to discover an unknown email address attributed to us, tied to a personal phone number and outdated street address. For a small annual fee, we can have this incorrect information deleted, and that's exactly what we did. It also gives us the ability to hide personal data, something many professionals in the medical and legal professions find absolutely imperative, not to mention law enforcement.
3. What else can we do to protect our information?
The service we used provides the ability to update several marketers and other sources of addresses, phone numbers and other personal data, and it monitors that information to make sure what is deleted stays deleted.
We also updated the National Do Not Call Registry, which is a listing of phone numbers that telemarketers are blocked from calling, and something called the OptOutPreScreen.com, which is a centralized service to process requests to "Opt-In" or “Opt-Out” of offers of credit or insurance. Both of these are sites you can visit without paying for a service.
Another thing that we did is set up Google alerts, which are periodic emails sent to us to let us know when Google finds new webpages, articles or blogs containing certain key words we identify as important to us. We set up several and receive daily emails highlighting any occurances. The key words can be anything, including the names of people and businesses.
4. How do these services help me avoid negative content about me or my business?
The truth is they really don't. What they do is generate positive content to help offset the negative, and hopefully reduce the prpobability that the negative content will be the first thing people find when they search for information about you. That content is created in a variety of ways, and we will get into that in a future post. In other words, generating positive feedback and comments are a good way to help you keep your good name in the spotlight.
5. So, what should I be doing to keep the information about me positive?
At Rollins, we believe there is no substitute for excellent service. Keeping your clients informed of any changes that could affect them, providing them with services and products that help them to be successful, and exceeding expectations at every opportunity are positive steps you can take right now. And it doesn't hurt to ask for feedback. We do.
6. Where can I find more information on Reputation Risk?
You can always talk to us, but you can also visit our resource page, Risky Business, where we have compiled valuable information on a variety of business and personal risks. At Rollins, everything we do is focused on helping our clients protect themselves and their loved ones.
What comes to mind when you hear about bullying?
Most of us think of children. We may even have faint recollections of our own experiences on the school playground. But bullying has evolved.
A 2003 report from The National Association of School Psychologists ranked bullying as the most common form of violence in our society, and surprisingly, it is not limited to schools, nor does it only affect children. It is now a workplace pheonomenon as well.
The Workplace Bullying Institute defines this abuse as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
- Verbal abuse
- Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- Work interference—sabotage—which prevents work from getting done.”
Often managers and supervisors simply don’t have the training to recognize the problem, seeing it as a personal conflict between people or not even noticing it all. Some employers even encourage bullies by rewarding these so-called good soldiers who push others wrongly to get things done.
How then do you recognize bullying in the workplace?
Because of its psychological rather than physical attacks on an individual, bullying is not easy to spot. It takes on various forms designed to exert control over the target. For example “icing out” creates an environment that renders the individual invisible. This isolation could be compounded by an assembly line or factory setting where the target has very little personal work space, causing the stress of the job to make it difficult to interact with others. The result is the equivalent of a form of torture.
What happens is that instead of turning to outward violence, a target will turn the violence inward and become despondent, depressed and even suicidal. Unfortunately, the grey area of workplace bullying doesn’t make it illegal since most harassment and mistreatment are non-criminal and, moreover, difficult to prove.
What can we do in our own workplaces to prevent bullying?
Acknowledge the problem. We need to recognize bullying as a potential threat, even if it is not evident in the workplace today.
Provide information on bullying. Educational material, workshops and seminars on the topic are available. Demonstrating an awareness of the problem will let any bullies know that they will not be tolerated, and targets will be heard and treated with respect.
Observe employee behavior. Noticing how they treat each other as well as whom they avoid will provide clues that something may be going on.
Finally, listen to employees who do speak out. One of the common complaints from individuals who were targeted by bullies is that no one listens to their grievances.
Bullying in any form is disruptive, harmful and intolerable. Employers and managers at all levels need to arm themselves with information about this dangerous and silent threat, before they have a problem.
For more about bullying in the workplace and in schools, click here.