Saturday, February 9, 2008

Add A Blog!

You can add a blog to your website and talk about your cause and keep it in front of your donor audience.

You can set up a blog at or both of these are free services. Or if you're a bit more advanced and want more of a professional blog you may want to try where you will have a monthly fee of up to $15.

Once you've done this you may want to learn more about blogging if you're a novice. There are two easy to follow books 'Blogging for Dummies' and 'Start Your Own Blogging Business'.

Write a Press Release about your blog and submit it to your local newspapers. I'll teach you how to do this later, but establish a number of entries on your blog first.

Make sure you use 'tags' or 'labels' that will make it easy for those to find you when they do a search. These 'tags' will be words that tie into your blog post for that day.

One of the things you want to do in your blog, that may be different than your website, is update how you are doing in reaching your goal. Perhaps you want to highlight a new member who has spent volunteer time helping your cause. (Everyone likes to see their name in print as long as you're writing something nice!) Remember to give them lots of public accolades! List any new events that may be coming up and write up a review of any past events. Adding photos will get prospective donors to continue to look at your site. There are many people who want to keep up with the Joneses!

As an example, one of my favorite types of non-profits are those that support our environment and wildlife. So, if that were your cause you could write about a different bird each week--include its migratory pattern, how it nests, what its nests are made of, how many are thought to exist, how long their eggs need to hatch, who are their natural predators, their habitat, what they need in order to survive, things that endanger their habitat, etc. Each week bird enthusiasts would return to your blog to educate themselves about a new bird. So do try to educate in your blog.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Develop Your Mission Statement

Your Mission Statement is your reason--it's the reason you started this non-profit. It's why you work long hours for little pay. It's your calling. It's what keeps you awake at night and eats away at your soul until you do something about it.

It's best if you can keep it simple enough for you, and others, to remember. It should fit nicely on the top or bottom of your stationery and on your newsletter. You want to keep this in front of the public.

Can you recite your mission statement? Can you list the key factors? If you already have a board, sit down with them and ask them to write one sentence that best describes the main reason your organization exists. You may find variety of answers depending on their own view point. Some people will look at it as providers, others may be from consumers, some from the legal aspects, and others may be from the management end of the business.

Find the common denominators among the statements. Now look at those statements that encompass every aspect of your organization. This may a very broad statement, but it's a place to begin. As you bring on your staff and board of directors (if you are a start up) you want to include them in on your vision for the organization. Don't expect people to share your exact vision. Have a group discussion and remember YOU are not the organization. In order to have everyone 'buy into' the organization they must have a piece of the vision.

Every few years staff and board should sit down and review this mission statement. Make certain that it really is reflecting what the organization is doing, and WANTS to do in the future. If it is, great. If it's not, then make the changes.

Remember every time you change your mission statement that you need to file it with the IRS along with your 501 (c)(3) application.

So You Want to Start A Non-Profit....

As I would speak to various groups about fundraising I'd often be asked the question, "How do I go about getting 501 (c)(3) status?" Perhaps you want to apply for some grants that are specifically set up for no-profits; or maybe you want your donors to be able to have a tax deduction from supporting your organization. Whatever the reason there are guidelines you must follow. Let's take a look at how you begin this process.

Your organization must be recognized by filing articles of incorporation. If you do not know the agency in your state that would be responsible for this contact your Secretary of State. Their number will be listed under your state government listings or your can find them through the Governor's office.

You also have the responsibility to apply to the IRS for application for Federal Income Tax Exemption. This is publication number 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization. This can also be downloaded from the IRS website. If you're really a novice at this I would recommend you find a mentor--perhaps someone from the SCORE program (check with your local Chamber of Commerce). They will likely be able to provide you with any technical assistance you may need. Also contact your local bar association for a referral to someone who has worked with non-profits in the past. Do not be afraid to ask them if they do 'pro-bono' work or if they will discount their typical fees.

And now you wait. Consider yourself lucky if this is done within six months. :-) So have lots of patience, and definitely be working on acquiring board members who share in your vision AND CAN OFFER YOUR NON-PROFIT ASSISTANCE! More on this later.