Friday, September 23, 2011

Back-To-School with Charitable Giving

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils and notebook paper is in the air again. That’s right, the back-to-school season is upon us. And though our youth are now hidden inside the walls of our area schools, now is no time to forget about them. Returning to school provides many children with new obstacles to overcome aside from understanding their math homework, while also providing us the perfect opportunity to lend a helping hand.

Here at the Charities Review Council, we decided to do our part by highlighting some of the charities that have our Meets Standards Seal and do their part to support the needs of school children.

Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP)
In Bloomington, Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP) has organized a back-to-school program that distributes school supplies to children in need entering grades K-12. They accept new supplies ranging from back packs to #2 pencils. To see an updated list of supplies still needed or get more information about the program for next year, visit their website!

Also important, especially in Minnesota with the winter months approaching faster than many of us would like, is clothing our students appropriately. ResourceWest, another charity meeting all of the Charity Review Council’s Accountability Standards, offers donors an opportunity to help with their Winter Warm Wear program. The program provides qualifying youth with a winter jacket, snow pants, snow boots, a hat, and mittens as supplies permit. To find out more about this program visit their website!

The Link
Aside from assisting children with their physical and material needs this school year, there are also programs designed to help in areas that may not be as obvious. One such program is the Project Potential Program run through The Link in Minneapolis. According to Morgan Larson, a case manager for the program, the goal of the project is to “connect with families that are referred for truancy in Hennepin County by reaching out into the community and finding them to bring them back to school.” She went on to say, “We assess the barriers that stand in the way of them attending school and address them by offering one-on-one case management and referring them to services within the community.”

Use Charity Search
These are just a few of the efforts in our community to help our children make this school year a positive one. You don’t need to be a teacher to impact the life of a student, and all of the programs discussed are living proof of this sentiment. We also encourage you to begin your own search for an organization to support, as always our charity search can be a useful tool!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Trusted Alzheimer's Organizations

Every year on September 21st Alzheimer's associations across the world unite to recognize World Alzheimer’s Day in efforts to increase awareness, understanding, and support for people with dementia.

Looking for trusted, accountable organizations that are also working towards eliminating Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer's Association and Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association, Inc., Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter have both earned our Meets Standards Seal and are on our list of Most Trustworthy Nonprofits.

Learn more about this disease and the efforts to address the nation’s sixth leading cause of death:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How September 11th Changed the Charitable Sector Forever

Rich Cowles, executive director of the Charities Review Council, shares his insight about the charitable aftermath of September 11, 2001 and how mistakes, lessons learned, and increased transparency changed the sector forever.

My first indication that Sept. 11, 2001 was not an ordinary day was when a local TV station cancelled an interview on how to find good charities to support. The reporter said she was needed at the station. In the following days, our phone rang off the hook, as media outlets from San Jose to Montgomery to Boston wanted analysis of what went wrong in the way the American Red Cross mishandled the avalanche of charitable gifts. We weren’t reticent about the charitable icon’s mistakes:
  • lack of transparency about the fact that, initially, donations went to a general disaster fund and some were expended to strengthen organizational capacity;
  • continuing to raise funds for the disaster with no plan on how to use the funds;
  • and lack of ownership of its mistakes.
But we also argued for some understanding—the Red Cross had no pattern to follow.

Never before had American generosity been triggered all at once by such a massive tragedy where there was no initial clue as to whether there would be survivors and what kind of long term needs families of victims would face.

The Red Cross was under a lot of pressure from the media. There was also concern within the charitable sector that donors—especially people who weren’t regular givers—would be disillusioned by this experience and calloused toward future pleas to alleviate human suffering.

In a remarkable turnaround, the Red Cross found a way out of the mess.

They leveled with the American public. They said they made mistakes and identified them. They asked for patience and an opportunity to earn back the public’s trust.

The organization learned from its mistakes, and instituted a rigorous, transparent process, including checking and double-checking to ensure they understood each donor’s intentions.

The lessons in a high-stakes, unforgiving atmosphere were clear for all nonprofits for all times: the public will support organizations that own their mistakes, shine a light on them, and fix them. And, as evidenced by the warm reception Minnesota’s nonprofit and philanthropic leaders gave American Red Cross CEO Harold Decker when he spoke at our Annual Forum nine months after 9/11, there is no better way to earn trust than to simply say, “I’m sorry.”

It’s evident more than ever that Americans were not disillusioned by the charitable aftermath of September 11th, and that, in fact, we are capable of an outpouring of support no matter the disaster—terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. But if the sector has learned one thing in the ten years post September 11th, it’s the necessity for sensitivity around donor intent, transparency and public trust.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Accountable Nonprofits Earn the MN Nonprofit Excellence and Mission Awards

Congratulations to the winners of the 2011 Minnesota Nonprofit Excellence and Mission Awards sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and MAP for Nonprofits.

Four of the six recognized nonprofits have earned our Meets Standards Seal and are on our list of Most Trustworthy Nonprofits!
  • East Metro Women’s Council, White Bear Lake, for Excellence in a Small Organization
  • YWCA of Minneapolis, for Excellence in a Large Organization
  • Community Action Duluth, for Innovation
  • Headwaters Justice Foundation, for Responsive Philanthropy
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota for Anti-Racism Initiative
  • The Arc of Minnesota, for Advocacy

The excellence and mission awards will be presented to these six nonprofits October 7th at an awards ceremony held during the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit’s 25th Annual Conference.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do your programs work? Learn how to evaluate impact!

Do you know the difference between outputs and outcomes for your nonprofit's programs? How about how to evaluate those programs? Have an evaluation plan in place? If you attended our most recent webinar you would! Kristin Cici, owner of The Advancement Company walked attendees through an informational discussion on evaluation, its importance, and tips for implementing a successful plan for evaluating programs' impact.

Check out our live tweets from the event and get an idea of what you missed!