Tag Archives: Human_Resources

Slack for Non-Profits – EMail is Obsolete!

Back in February I wrote about using Slack for our non-profit organization.  I’ve since introduced this to another organization that I’m a board member for, and it appears to have really taken off for this other group. One thing I hadn’t mentioned last time was the Slack for Non-Profits program, which provides all of the benefits of a paid Slack account to a qualifying non-profit for free. These include:

  • A fully searchable archive with unlimited messages
  • Unlimited external integrations
  • Simple usage statistics
  • Custom message retention policies
  • Guest access
  • Premium support
The first point I should emphasize is that even if you don’t qualify for the non-profit program, Slack is still highly useful. In particular, we were looking for the ability to invite users to our Slack board, without having those users be able to see the entire list of channels. For example,  here is our channel list.

You’ll note that this full list includes the standard default channels, “general”, and “random”.  All of the other channels are related either to committees, or for planning of upcoming events.  The committees include:

  • board
  • fundraising
  • publicity
The planning channels include
  • 2015_fall_concert
  • 50th_anniversary 
  • auditions_2015fall 
You may have gathered that our group is a music group.  We’re actually a semi-professional choral group of 36 acapella singers that sing five centuries of choral music.  
The calendar channel is a special channel. This is an integration which displays calendar events that are entered into our organization’s Google Calendar. You’ll note that the non-profit plan includes “unlimited integrations”. (The free plans include 10 integrations). Integrations are a whole separate discussion, but briefly, they allow events and information from other applications to appear (be copied to) a Slack channel and vice-versa. I’ve used this especially for integrating Trello project management boards with Slack channels. So, for example, I may have a Trello board for a particular grant application, and have additions and changes in the Trello board appear within the fundraising channel. 
Ok.  Back to the other enhancements. An advantage of the non-profit plan is that we’ll be able to create a channel for, say the Concert Committee, and invite all the members of that committee to the channel. Those members can be restricted so that they can’t see the board channel, or indeed any other committees that they aren’t a member of. This is great for us…as we’ll probably end up having channels for each committee, as well as an AllMembers channel for everyone who sings with us.  
The other major advantage of non-profit status is that you can use the enhancements for no cost. I was interested to see that the Slack crew said if we had an actual paid account, we’d be spending US$640.00 per year, and that is just for our current subset of our full membership, (basically the board of directors). By the time we add our committee channels and the rest of our members, we’ll be getting the equivalent of at least double that amount. Not bad for a few minutes of filling out the application.  
What are you waiting for?  Apply for a Non-Profit Slack account now.  You’ll need a 501c(3) letter, testifying that you are granted non-profit status.

And I’d love to hear how you are using Slack in your non-profit; send a note or leave comments. 

Finding Board Members

More from our discussion of board members with Larry Mandel. “How do you find boad members?”

  • Identify
  • Cultivate
  • Recruit
  • Orient
  • Involve
  • Educate
  • Evaluate
  • Rotate

Last year of a vice-chair’s … to become the chair.

Two -year commitments (term limits) for board officers.

Look for:
People with commitment
People who will be active
Have to have enough time (the problem of going to the same people).
People with experience
People who broaden our perspective

Board members should be expected to contribute financially to the organization. With foundations —- there is a requirement of 100% board participation financially up front.

Idea: give a questionaire to potential board members

Board Management: Seminar Notes

During the non-profit management seminar, we had a terrific presentation by Larry Mandel, former president of Woodbury College. Larry discussed the relationship between the board, board president and executive director. Here are my notes …

Almost all problems within a NP can be traced back to conflict between a Governance and Leadership. “that’s my job!”…. ” No that’s your job!”

Systems as policy: This works both ways. Good systems can foster good policy. Sclerotic systems can thwart good policy. There is always a danger of sacrificing one on the alter of the other.

It is almost impossible for an ED to outperform their board.
It is almost impossible or a board to outperform their ED.
The two are locked in a symbiotic embrace; failure of one will guarantee failure of the other.

The ED needs to spend schmooze time with individual board members.

Mentor the executive director … Or the board.
Board needs to be asked to engage.

The person who has the biggest stake in success in the board is the ED.
What happens if there is a problem, How can we talk about it, it shouldn’t be personal .

You will have duds on your board. (the bell curve).
With 4 or 5 people who really are being leaderly and being role models and set up the expectation will help make it work.

Executive Director = transient = focused on the organization

Board = permanent = connected to the community

Liability Insurance for the Board
If you can possibly afford it, then get it!
Directors and Officers costs about $1000 per year.

Magic number is six years before you rotate off the board.
The board should create its own work plan.
You are three board members away from a great board to chaos. Often the best composition of a board is 1/3 wealth, work and wisdom .

Different stages of board development.

The board really has only one staff member. The ED.

You want to have a board that makes the ED successful.
The ED wants the board to be successful. If this trust isn’t in place, then you are doomed.

Board Roles:
The board protcts the assets tangible and intangible, of the stakeholder, client, donor, funder, public ownership —- community good-will.
Develops and monitors policies and a future stratigic direction
Financial reliabilty
Legal Duties

  • Duty of Care
  • Duty of Loyalty
  • Duty of Obedience – operate within laws, bylaws, etc.

There should be a conflict of interest policy, signed by the board members. The conflict is Ok…..it just has to be disclosed.

Board chairs must have the time to perform their duties.

Nonprofit Quarterly – All about volunteers

I’ve always thought that one way to prove the health of a non-profit organization is to take a look at the number and quality of the volunteers who are involved. In some organizations there is a prejudice against volunteers, they take work away from the “professional” staff, they aren’t trained to perform the organization’s work, etc. But, volunteers should be managed for the asset that they are; a source of enthusiastic contributors, just like members or financial contributors.

The latest Nonprofit Quarterly’s theme is “working in a a nonprofit”, and it includes an article Volunteering by the Numbers which attempts to quantify the contribution made by volunteers taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • 10% of seniors devote 500 or more hours to volunteering each year
  • Married people devote 50 hours, divorced/widowed/separated 54 hours, and those never married 40 hours
  • Women volunteer more than men, 29.3% vs. 22.9%
  • 61 million people volunteered an average of 52 hours for the year September 2006 to Sept 2007, an average of an hour per week.
  • Fundraising, and management assistance were the two top activities. 

There is considerable discussion in the article about the management of volunteers. The article quotes a UK Institute for Volunteer Research:

Though written about extensively, some of the basic elements of good volunteer management are missing from many of the surveyed U.K. charities; 81 percent of volunteers say that they did not have job descriptions, nearly as many say that they never received training for their volunteer work, and despite reports from volunteer coordinators, an almost equal amount claim never to have been interviewed by a member of the organization before beginning volunteer activity.

Listing of all articles in the fall issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly.

Chron This Week: Hiring and Firing

Hiring and Firing are major themes in the Chronicle of Philanthropy this week as a story starting on page 11 discusses the tightening market for senior fund-raisers. Seems counterintuitive.

Also a nice article about recruiting younger workers. This points to an online report from the Project Roundtable on Nonprofit Recruitment and Retention.

Not in the paper this week, but of interest in our local news are the problems that Fort Ticonderoga is having with the abrupt departure of a major funder. Here’s a link at the Plattsburgh NY Press-Republican.

Ten Ways – Redux, the final 3

Following up on Ten Ways to Improve the Federal Grantwriting Experience post, here are three more suggestions to provide an even ten ideas:

  • Mind The Indirect
    Grant budgets include direct expenses; money that is spent on items and services directly related to fulfilling the grant objectives, and indirect expenses; money that is spent as the cost of doing business, such as office expenses, heat, utilities, etc. Grantor agencies may or may not allow you to charge indirect expenses to the grant…but you do have to be able to account for those expenses. Enlightened grant-givers will allow you to charge a portion of your indirect to the grant and they will acknowledge these expenses. They will be suspicious if you don’t account for the indirect expenses.

    Indirect can be called different things. For example, the National Institutes of Health call it ‘F&A’ or “Facilities and Administration”. Depending on the nature of the institution, the percentage rate can be quite high. For example, the current rate for our university is around 56%. This means, of course that if I want to receive a hundred dollars worth of services from the uni, it will cost me $156.00. Ouch.

    My own history with indirect has been less than stellar. Attempting to follow the example calculations, I came up with a 33% rate, which I thought was fairly reasonable. Turns out NIH has a default rate of 25% if you don’t start negotiating a different rate. If you say you’re going to negotiate a higher rate, then they’ll only give you a provisional rate of 10%. After spending some days on this, including hiring and firing a CPA/consultant who was supposed to figure it all out, (and almost losing my own CPA and bookkeeper in the process), I gave up temporarily and have been living with the 10% rate.

  • Plan For Financial Management
    Related to the indirect issue, I was amazed and surprised at the amount of time required to just manage a federal grant. Let me count the ways:
    1. Obtain a DUNS number
    2. Register for the Central Contracting Registry
    3. Obtain a Federal Wide Assurance (FWA) number for my company.
    4. Register with the Institutional Review Board at the university
    5. Create a plan for the Institutional Review Board (which manages human subjects data and protection…in our case because we’re doing research with human subjects).
    6. Repeat the above three items on a yearly basis
    7. Manage three separate online government web applications for reporting and submitting, as well as an application for transferring money to my company bank account
    8. Maintain separate bank accounts for each grant
    9. Manage the grant as a separate class or company within QuickBooks.
    10. Develop the consortium agreement with the university (including budget, and scope of work)
    11. Pay consortium, and about eight separate contractors or organizations on a bi-weekly basis

    I could go on. But the point is, in addition to direct work, there is a 20-25% level of effort that can reasonably be charged for administration.

  • Realize that the first grant will change your life and organization.
    This is the “be careful what you wish for” idea. For all the effort required to write the application and get all the pieces in place, the real work starts in month 1 of your first budget year.

There are moments of exhilaration. After weeks of trials and tests, we’ve gotten our research project into production beginning this week.

NTEN’s Staffing and Salary Surveys for IT Staff

NTEN has published its most recent survey on IT for non-profits. A couple excerpts:

• The highest average salary reported was $71,494.57 for a Chief Technology Officer/Chief InformationOfficer.
• The lowest reported average salary was $37,445.65 for a PC Technician/IT Support Staff.
• Reported salaries for most positions were lower this year than last year. The largest drops were for management positions. CIO/CTOs reported salaries 25.44% lower than last year and IT Directors reported salaries 18.42% lower than last year.
• The exceptions to the trend toward lower salaries were Systems/Network Administrator and Webmaster/developer, which were 4.00% and 8.84% higher, respectively.

Candadian Health Care – A positive view.

The first of two posts about the Canadian Health Care system that debunks a lot of the misinformation which is being passed around. We lived in Canada in the mid-eighties and I was mildly surprised at how smoothly everything went. Although we were on one-year residence permits, we were issued a standard credit card size health system card. This was used for payment for doctors, dentists and eye specialists.

At the time we found this to be only mildly extraordinary, as we had been living in Germany under a similar system.

If you try to decipher Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D, you can spend a week trying to figure it out.

How does employer-provided healthcare affect non-profits? For one thing it forces your organization to consider the cost of providing health care as a cost of hiring new personnel. In our area, this is around $12,000 per year (and rising by 8% or more per year) for an employee with a spouse and one or two children.

How bad does it have to get before there will be some action on health care at the federal level?