Monday, April 27, 2015

Meet Ian Cook: Our New Nonprofit Services Specialist!

We are excited to announce that Ian Cook will be joining our team at Charities Review Council!

Ian graduated from St. Olaf College with a BA in Music, an emphasis in Music Theory and Composition, a concentration in Educational Studies, and a K-12 Instrumental Music teaching license. Aside from Ian's love for all things music, he also currently serves as the Operations Manager for the Academy of Voices, having previously served as Treasurer on the board. Ian brings to the Council an array of nonprofit experience having worked with Northfield Youth Choirs, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, the Minnesota Music Educators Association, and the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. 

Ian is very interested in the role nonprofits play in the community and is excited to partner with nonprofit organizations to build their organizational capacity so that they can continue to do great work. Ian will be joining our Nonprofit Services Team as the Nonprofit Services Specialist, where he will provide support and technical assistance to nonprofits as they work through the Accountability Wizard® review process. 

To better 'get to know' Ian, we sat down to ask the tough questions, like, what's your favorite dessert, and more seriously, what's your favorite Accountability Standard. See what he had to say here:

1. What is your favorite Accountability Standard?
The Annual Report & Communication standard. This standard encourages nonprofits to engage with the community they serve by reporting on the work of the organization over the previous year in a transparent way. This keeps nonprofits accountable to the public they serve and allows for the organization to work with its constituents, rather than just for its constituents, by creating a space for the public to respond and engage with the nonprofit’s work. 

2. How have you seen nonprofits play a role in our community?
Most of my direct experience with nonprofits has been with arts organizations, particularly with youth-related music programs. These organizations can have a profound impact on the community by 1) developing musical skills for youth, even while many schools cut their music programs, 2) helping students develop deeper relationships with their peers, including students from different schools, and 3) creating a space where youth feel safe and willing to be vulnerable with each other.

3. When you’re not strengthening the capacity of nonprofit organizations, what do you like to do for fun?
I am an active musician in the Twin Cities. I sing tenor in the National Lutheran Choir and in the Academy of Voices, and play trombone in several musical pits and substitute in a few symphony orchestras in the Cities. I also write my own music, working as a freelance composer and engraver (typesetting music so that it’s publishable). I also love languages, reading, photography, designing websites, and constantly seeking new things to learn.

4. What is your favorite dessert?
I have a very big sweet tooth, and I like a lot of desserts, but my favorites are almost always pies (the occasional exceptions being brownies and flourless chocolate tortes). The very best dessert I have ever had was for my birthday a couple years ago when we made a pear cardamom chocolate ganache tart. 

5. What are you most excited for as you begin your journey with Charities Review Council?

I am very excited to grow my skills and knowledge of nonprofit governance, management, and reporting. I am also excited to collaborate and build relationships with nonprofits as they work to strengthen their capacity to do great work.

We're thrilled to have Ian on our team! Welcome Ian to Charities Review Council by sending him a tweet, email, or by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What We've Been Reading...

In keeping with the theme of National Volunteer week, here at Charities Review Council we have been reading about volunteering and the building of a vibrant culture of philanthropy. Here are just a few articles that we wanted to share with you:

Why Fundraisers Should Never Take a Volunteer for Granted: Volunteers and Fundraising Go Together Like Jelly on Toast by Joanne Fritz

There are many ways to become involved in the work of a nonprofit by giving your time, talent and treasure. This articles reinforces the important role that volunteering can play for the success of a nonprofit organization, noting that “87% of people who support cherished causes do so with both time and money, and 43% say that the causes they give to are also often the same ones where they volunteer.” The author subsequently urges nonprofits to remember this connection when designing volunteer experiences. Do you prefer to volunteer with an organization first before donating?

The Role of Core Values in Creating a Culture of Philanthropy by Lee Neel

This article highlights the key role of an organization’s core values in successfully generating a culture of philanthropy. The author defines a core value as a “principle that defines and guides an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with the external world.” The article then goes on to detail the process of identifying core values and the crucial role of leadership in implementing an organization’s core values. What are the core values of your favorite nonprofit that resonate most with you?

Inspiring The Next Generation Workforce: The 2014 Millennial Impact Report by The Case Foundation and Achieve

This report explores how a company’s cause-related engagement influences a Millennial’s employment decisions and the subsequent culture of philanthropy that is emerging. With around 80 million Millennials currently living across the United States, they are poised to represent half of the workforce by 2020. The authors note that “[i]t’s not enough for a company to talk about their corporate social responsibility endeavors to gain public relations points. To create a culture of cause work that inspires better Millennial recruitment and retention, companies must offer employees meaningful opportunities to give, get involved and connect.” Do you enjoy participating in volunteer opportunities with your colleagues?

What have you been reading lately? Let us know if you come across an article or resource that you find particularly inspiring or educational!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What We've Been Reading...

Recently, here at Charities Review Council, we have been reading about the many different tools for successful leadership in the nonprofit sector and beyond. We wanted to share just a few of these interesting articles with you:

The Best Leaders Are Humble Leaders by Jeanine Prime and Elizabeth Salib

This article explores the role of humility as an integral skill for successful leadership. The authors note that “humility is one of four critical leadership factors for creating an environment where employees from different demographic backgrounds feel included.” Drawing on the results from a survey of over 1,500 employees working in a range of countries worldwide, the authors illustrate their message noting in particular a link between an employee’s sense of inclusion and innovation. The article goes on to specify the ways in which a leader can go about implementing what the authors define as a “selfless leadership style.” Is there a humble leader who has inspired you?

Does Your Process Invite ‘Em In or Keep ‘Em Out? Streamlining’s Connection to Diversity and Inclusion by Jessica Bearman

Another critical component of successful leadership is ensuring that all voices and perspectives are brought to the table. This article highlights the ways in which grantmakers can work to prevent application practices and even communication from becoming “an invisible barrier to entry.” The author details six steps that organizations can take to ensure that traditionally marginalized communities can successfully participate in the grantmaking process. She describes these different key steps as “streamling habit[s].” What steps do you think should be taken to prevent the emergence of barriers to entry?

Six Degrees of Separation: Kate Khaled by Kate Khaled

Our very own Kate Khaled, Director of Engagement & Donor Services, was recently featured on Pollen, where she wrote about the six people who have played an integral role in influencing the person that she is today. When describing one of her mentors, Kate said “because of him I know that listening and empathy are the most important components of authentic leadership.” This article underlines the important role that mentors can play throughout your professional life. Do you have a mentor who has had a significant impact on your professional life?

What have you been reading lately? Let us know if you come across an article or resource that you find particularly inspiring or educational!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What If You Could Really Be Heard? What If Being Heard Led to Real Change?

We’ve made great progress, but we need your input. Join us on March 24th at 8:30 am for the #DisruptMN Town Hall breakfast to discuss how we can move more than 800 new ideas that reimagine giving into practice.


If you are like the staff at Charities Review Council, you have a lot to say about the way giving happens, and how you’d like to make our field even better than it already is. Minnesota has long been recognized in the nation for its strong nonprofit and philanthropic infrastructure, with more than 600 organizations partnering with Charities Review Council on an Accountability Wizard review. Still, being a nonprofit leader isn’t easy, especially in Minnesota, where our community is striving to bridge some of the largest social disparities in the nation.

The economic recovery is leaving behind many nonprofits and communities in need.

For many nonprofits, tight budgets used to be just long enough to feed the hungry, support the arts and fight for the environment. That’s not true anymore. Since the economic downturn in 2008, nonprofits are working to ‘do more with less.’ Chronically tasked with increasing demand for services with fewer donation dollars supporting their operations, nonprofits have difficulty keeping up with demand. According to a 2014 study by Nonprofit Finance Fund, 56% of nonprofits can’t meet demand. 80% of nonprofit respondents reported an increase in demand for services, the 6th straight year of increased demand in a row (Nonprofit Finance Fund, 2014).

Social sector leaders recognize that the old way is no longer working.

What does it mean to be serving more people with fewer dollars supporting infrastructure?

According to Charities Review Council data, the average administrative expense of Minnesota nonprofit sector is around 11% of its total budget. That means that many organizations are shortchanging their staff compensation, technology infrastructure and other key elements of their operations. This percentage is a red flag for the nonprofit sector’s ability to sustain itself. Donors and nonprofits are calling for new, innovative ways of making ends meet.

For that reason, Charities Review Council and our innovative, cross-sector and inter-generational planning team came together to re-imagine our annual event, leading to Annual Forum 2014: Disruptive Philanthropy on September 30, 2014. Our goal was to build a space and place where donors, grantmakers and nonprofits could come together to imagine, create and innovate new ways of practicing philanthropy for an even greater good.

While not every part of the Annual Forum 2014 experience was perfect, we (and you, via your evaluation results!) count the day as a success. We took a risk, we tried something new, and we learned from it, after all. Hundreds of you joined together, ready to bring your best ideas to the table.  

One of the biggest successes of all was the morning Design Thinking session, led by Virajita Singh of the University of Minnesota’s College of Design. This session engaged more than 140 social sector leaders (the largest Design Thinking session in Minnesota to date!) to come up with more than 800 (!) new ideas to re-imagine giving.  

But: ideas alone are worthless without a plan, a vision and the collaborative will to put them into place.

Let's make that plan together. Please join us for breakfast on your way to work on March 24th. We're listening. Charities Review Council asks that you come ready to share your thoughts about how we can take those fantastic ideas and put them into practice together.

Friday, February 13, 2015

What We’ve Been Reading...

Here at Charities Review Council our staff enjoys keeping up-to-date with the valuable articles and resources circulating in the philanthropic sector. We wanted to share a few articles and resources with you that we’ve been reading recently: 

This article explores the ways in which we can all be philanthropists by donating our time and talent as well as treasure. The author begins by stating: “People say philanthropy is only for the rich. This is a lie.” In particular, the article stresses that even a smile constitutes what the authors calls “effective philanthropy.” This is an important reminder that contributing and having a positive impact in your community does not solely require money. The author ends with a question to his readers: “What do you have in plentiful supply? Think of how you can share it. Then start your career in philanthropy now.” 
The engaged relationship between board members and staff is an integral part of ensuring the success of a nonprofit organization. When asked by BoardSource, board chairs and chief executives evaluated their own boards, yielding the following results: “Boards earned a 2.65 or B- average — underwhelming results for the top leaders of their organizations and such high-achieving individuals […] The findings reveal that boards are generally better at technical tasks, such as financial oversight and compliance, than they are at adaptive work related to strategy and community outreach.” With these findings in mind, what changes do you think should be made to improve the work of nonprofit boards? 
This article draws attention to the emerging shift in nonprofit leadership from generations such as the baby boomers to millennials. The author details his assessments of what nonprofit board members can expect from a member of the millennial generation taking on a nonprofit CEO position, noting that “[a]s more millennials achieve nonprofit CEO status, their values and outlooks may disturb some of the older board members […] They and their millennial staffs can do a great deal to improve service to clients, in ways quite different than in the past.” Perhaps a few tidbits to keep in mind as increasing numbers of millennials join the nonprofit workforce and take on more leadership roles.
What have you been reading lately? Let us know if you come across an article or resource that you find particularly inspiring or educational!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#DisruptMN All Day, All Week, All Year

By Monica Foss, Events Associate

We took a risk and it worked. Is there any better feeling?

This year's Annual Forum 2014: Disruptive Philanthropy was an experiment of epic proportions for Charities Review Council. A year ago we asked for feedback on our Forum and heard the Minnesota Philanthropic community calling for a deeper dive; so we aligned our new strategy with the planning for this year’s forum and delivered. We created a place where the full spectrum of Minnesota’s philanthropic members could come together to honor our community’s history of generosity, and to imagine a new future where donors, funders and nonprofits do even more good together. The theme Disruptive Philanthropy developed from the idea that change may not be easy or comfortable, but it is necessary in order to make space for new ideas and better outcomes.

Mayor Chris Coleman & Executive Director Kris Kewitsch
The day was more creative and energetic than we expected. Starting with the Design Thinking Session, the ideas were flowing. More than 100 people gathered together in groups of eight to explore the concept of giving, in their personal and professional lives. Virajita Singh led the session and helped us realize that “everyone is creative. It is inherently human.” Saint Paul’s Mayor Chris Coleman stopped by and reminded us that “City Hall is not the place where disruption will come from;” rather, people working in the community have the agency, the know-how, and the desire to catalyze change. The importance of finding new ways to deal with old problems is often lost in the bureaucracy of institutions, but innovation starts with individuals.

Michael Faye, our lunchtime keynote speaker, brought us an example of Disruptive Philanthropy by telling his story about the founding of Give Directly. The organization was created with the idea that those living in poverty across the globe know best how to invest donation dollars. His organization developed a model to provide those extreme poor with the technology to receive direct cash transfers, and they are now watching their unique investments change the landscape of giving. While it may or may not be a model that can be replicated in the United States, it was a reminder that sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. Seeing through old ways of doing to go back to our ultimate goal is the first step in sparking new ideas for giving, and giving effectively.

Neese Parker (Youthprise) and Jason Edens of RREAL
With a good laugh from the Theater of Public Policy to end lunch, we launched our newest idea for giving effectively: the Live Giving party. There we heard from five organizations tackling their communities’ problems with innovative solutions. And in the end, our vision of ‘disruption’ was put in action when everyone at the Forum was offered the opportunity to give with giving cards courtesy of Charities Review Council and GiveMN.

What did we learn?

We learned that Disruptive Philanthropy is already in action in the Twin Cities. It lives in the creative minds of philanthropic and nonprofit professionals. It is fostered by the Minnesota Nice mentality we uphold that allows for collaboration and appreciation of diversity.

Here’s what the Council staff learned in their own words:

Abby Wright, Program Assistant: “People are ready, willing and looking for a way to disrupt the status quo. There was an incredible amount of energy and excitement throughout the day reflecting that.

Kris Kewitsch, Executive Director: “There is more excitement and energy around wanting change than I expected.

Amy Sinykin, Associate Director: “Taking risks and making changes can be fun and invigorating.

Kate Khaled, Engagement and Development Manager: "We used Design Thinking practices to plan #DisruptMN, and it paid off. The process was catalytic for Charities Review Council and the community we serve. When you use an inclusive process (like Design Thinking) to imagine new programs, you can transform a traditional lunch into an active experience with the end-user in mind. We may not have gotten everything exactly right the first time, but with our guests as our partners, we can continue to build dynamic experiences (like #DisruptMN) that completely re-design the social sector engagement experience."

Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, Program Director: “All people are creative and can contribute to the solutions we need to improve nonprofit systems. It is up to each of us to ensure there are empowering environments where people can contribute and practice their ideas; and even fail sometimes with support and encouragement.

 Pollen's Live Illustration Wall

The Council hopes to continue this collaboration throughout the year, with more Design Thinking sessions and opportunities to use learning from #DisruptMN. In the coming weeks watch out for a report from Virajita Singh on the ideas developed during the design thinking session. There are pictures already on Facebook from the event – make sure to find and tag yourself and friends! In addition, a video recap of the day will be on our website within the month. And if you haven’t already, please fill out our evaluation survey – your feedback is essential to shape next year’s forum and to make it bigger, better and more disruptive.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Big News! Look Who's Pitching on September 30th!

 After receiving a significant number of nominations, the Council chose five organizations to pitch at our Live Giving party. The selection process was tough – Charities Review Council was thrilled by all of the submissionsOur community is full of innovative ideas, and nonprofits are using their imagination and creativity 

Donors: are you ready to try a new way of giving? REGISTER HERE. 

We're honored to announce that Youthlink, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, World Savvy, Pillsbury United Communities and Native American Community Development Institute will all be pitching, Shark Tank style, at our Live Giving Party on September 30. Each of these organizations is either working to meet Standards or Meet Standards; for that reason, donors who give at our Live Giving Party can feel confident that these great ideas are also strong investments. 

Maria (YouthLink), Jennifer (NACDI) and Lynnea (SmartGivers) Practice for the Pitch Party
Learn about each organization below. Their creative pitches will remain a surprise reserved just for party guests! 

Youthlink's mission is to build healthy relationships with youth and the community to address youths’ urgent needs so that doors of opportunity are opened to futures of empowerment, connectedness, and self-reliance. Youthlink empowers homeless youth to be healthy, active and contributing members of the community. Youth (defined as ages 16-23) can find themselves homeless for a variety of reasons – Youthlink offers young people a place to feel safe, eat a meal, shower, get help with school and finding a job, or receive medical care. Without a stable home to grow up in, homeless youth are often ill-prepared for the demanding responsibilities of adult life.  Youthlink takes care of their basic needs so they have the power and motivation to find a route out of homelessness and an avenue into adulthood. 2014 marks the organization’s 40th year of guiding homeless youth into pathways of opportunity. Read some phenomenal stories of individuals who prospered with a little help from Youthlink.

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance 
Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is the brainchild of high school teacher Jason Edens. His vision was to help families struggling with fuel poverty in a more sustainable way. The cost of heating your home has risen exponentially in the recent decades; solar energy technology is one way to offset that cost, but the initial installation costs can be just as extraordinary. RREAL helps provide the installation and use of solar energy panels, so that families struggling to pay energy bills can heat their homes through the winter on minimal dollars and continue to be self-reliant in future years. They are helping offset the ever increasing carbon footprint of fossil fuels and the money tax-payers put in to help low income families from freezing in our beyond frigid Minnesota winters. Win- win for the environment, economy and individuals who each winter have to choose between heat and food. Read more about how solar energy works and who’s benefited from this program.

World Savvy 
World Savvy provides students and teachers with the resources needed to be responsible global citizens in the 21st century. Our world is increasingly interconnected; the students of today need to know how to navigate the technology that is connecting us and the array of cultures that are now in contact. History has never seen this level of instantaneous reach; developing global competency is critical for us to thrive as a collective world society. World Savvy provides programs for students and teachers with themes of collaborative problem solving, art and media exploration, experiential service learning and international exchange. Read more about their World Savvy Classrooms and Global Competence Certificates – two programs changing the way we approach education and the world. 

Pillsbury United Communities 
Pillsbury United Communities is a network of neighborhood centers across Minneapolis that offer programs and activities that address education, youth and family, wellness and nutrition, employment and training, and asset creation. They seek to help people not just exist, but thrive in their communities as connected Minneapolis citizens. With 5 centers throughout the area, they serve just about any need a neighbor could imagine, including computer and culinary classes, retail stores for shopping and job opportunities, after-school activities, emergency food shelf and child care, and urban farming. PUC  offers strategic opportunities for people to participate, connect and organize; building bridges between communities and decision-makers, to break through barriers to self-sufficiency. And this October they will be celebrating their 135 years of service in the Twin Cities! Learn more about the centers and the opportunities available for ALL Minneapolis residents.
Jay Bad Heart Bull Practicing the NACDI Pitch

Native American Community Development Institute 
The Native American Community Development Institute or NACDI hopes to connect the Native American community to 21st century opportunities. By acting as an alliance of major Indian nonprofits and businesses in the Twin Cities area, they help to strengthen the capacity building efforts of the community. Their aim is to change the Native American community from one of deficit to one of opportunity, job growth, and asset building. Over the past few years their accomplishments include recruiting the first American Indian-owned Bank to open on Franklin Ave, creating a new Community Development degree program for MCTC, and graduating 7 Native Americans in their entrepreneurship program. Read about their lengthy list of current projects and how they are touching both the Native and non-Native communities. 

Judging by the work these nonprofits are already doing, their bright ideas are sure to be ‘disruptive’ and worthy of your 'time,' 'talent' and 'treasure.' Please join us at the Live Giving Party, and show your support for five strong organizations who are working creatively to address some of the biggest needs in our Minnesota community, and beyond.