Monday, December 17, 2012

Part 1: Achieving the Full Benefits of Meeting Standards

This three-part series recounts one organization’s journey to meet the Accountability Standards through integrating their entire organization. The Charities Review Council’s Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson sat down with Ekta Prakash, Executive Director of CAPI, an organization working to guide refugees and immigrants in the journey toward self-determination and social equality.
Intentionally Including Board & Staff in the Review Process is the Golden Ticket
Part 1 of a 3 part series inspired by CAPI’s journey to Meet Standards
By Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson

During my chat with Ekta, I experienced a moment of clarity from which I got a positive case of the willies. These kind of willies may also be known as the “warm fuzzies” and yes, you can get warm fuzzies about nonprofit sector accountability and transparency (or at least I can). Ekta shared with me the power that the process of going through the review process and meeting Standards was having on their organization. I found myself wanting to shout “Yes! Yes!”

Organizations know that donors and funders value the “Meets Standards Seal” showing that a nonprofit is stable and well-managed. Oftentimes, one or two staff members work through the Accountability Wizard to learn the Standards, upload their key documents, and answer related questions, only involving others when the board needs to vote on an issue, conduct an assessment, or finance staff needs to find a copy of a 990. These lucky few (seriously, I mean lucky) quickly see the benefits of learning and applying the Standards.

The benefits are many but the most transformative changes seem to occur if the organization includes all staff, board, and volunteers in the learning process and celebrates the success of meeting Standards. Ekta shared that she thought it was necessary for the CAPI staff to understand the Standards and the related practices.

“We cannot do our work as leaders of an organization without staff understanding the Accountability Standards and how they show up in their day-to-day work.  This is a key contributor to the stability of our organization.”

Here are some ways you can get your whole team up to speed on the Accountability Standards:
  • Celebrate your Meets Standards Seal - Yep, it’s that simple. Don’t let the accomplishment of meeting Standards go unnoticed. Tell the story of how trustworthy your organization is internally, as well as externally. Share the seal with staff and board members so they can include it on materials, explain what it means and what you did to get it. Educate them about the existence of nonprofit standards and how they help to bring the sector together. Most of all, ensure your institutional knowledge is kept by sharing it!
  • Standards Ice Breaker - Take turns having staff share one or two Standards as an icebreaker for your staff meetings. Give a brief introduction of the standard, then challenge the group to talk about how it is important to the work of the organization and how it relates to any current sector issues or news (this can work for board meetings too).
  • Share with Stakeholders - Volunteers, participants, partners, and community members all have a stake in your work. Produce a short story about meeting the Accountability Standards for your website, newsletter, or a postcard explaining your achievement and what it means for your work. This promotes pride in the work and builds a sense of obligation and accountability that is appreciated.
Up Next: How meeting Standards boosts internal accountability and transparency.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Series Intro: Achieving the Full Benefits of Meeting Standards

Our upcoming three-part series will recount one organization’s journey to meet the Accountability Standards through integrating their entire organization.

The Charities Review Council’s Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson recently sat down with Ekta Prakash, Executive Director of CAPI, to discuss the spirit of the Accountability Standards and its power to transform the culture and day-to-day work of an organization.

Lynnea somewhat reluctantly describes herself as a nonprofit sector geek, and as such, the experience that Ekta shared convinced her that when you involve the “whole” organization in the journey to Meet Standards, it can be quite powerful.

CAPI’s mission is to guide refugees and immigrants in the journey toward self-determination and social equality. While exploring the benefits of meeting the 27 Accountability Standards, Ekta provided three lessons learned from CAPI’s experience:

Stay tuned as we post three informative blogs covering these topics over the next month to gain valuable tips and insight into the process of completing an Accountability Wizard review.

Ekta Prakash holds an MA in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics and a Masters in Nonprofit and Public Administration from Metropolitan State University. Prior to joining CAPI, Ekta worked for the Presbyterian Homes and Access Press. She was also a National Gender Equity Campaign Fellow with Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) and a Leaders Advocacy Parity Fellow for the Smoke Free Asian American Pacific Islanders Housing Project.  "My personal philosophy is also based on my management theory of organizational behavior and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I am always open to ways to improve myself as an individual and I’m committed to serving my community.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Games Aren’t Just for Kids, But Nonprofits Too

As nonprofits continue to develop programing that will better serve clients and bring awareness to their causes, a critical piece in this puzzle is technology. And a critical piece in the technology puzzle is the increasing use of online gaming.
In the Co.Exist article, “Games For Civic Participation, Social Causes, and Fun,” Ben Schiller highlights five of the best examples of nonprofits utilizing online gaming technology to improve their programs.
1.       Macon Money
2.       Commons
3.       Reality Ends Here
4.       Situationist
5.       Re:Activism
It’s fascinating to see all of the uses and possibilities for this technology. As Schiller goes from game to game, from cause to cause, it becomes clearer that this really could be part of the future for social engagement. So what makes some games successful and others not? According to the article’s research, “Games tend not to work when they’re intended to drive home a particular message, or have participants find one correct answer.”
Another interesting observation is that none of the highlighted games involve any type of fundraising in the game platform. When games have the user’s best interest in mind and are ultimately meant to be an enjoyable experience for the user, then that’s the ticket to an authentically engaging game.
It’ll be exciting to watch this technology and innovation develop as nonprofits become more creative in engaging their constituents online. A fun exercise for your nonprofit might be to brainstorm a game it could develop. How would you engage users?  What outcomes would you want from the game?  What experience would you want users to have?