Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Welcome to our new Program Assistant, Marc!

Marc Hosmer joined the Charities Review Council last week, as the new part-time Nonprofit Services Program Assistant. His primary duties include helping nonprofits as they go through our Accountability Wizard review process and providing overall support to our program team.

1. What about this position and the Council sparked your interest?
I love the idea of being part of building the nonprofit sector as a whole by helping nonprofits to demonstrate the high-quality that already exists and to continually improve their organizations. 

2. Describe your ideal Saturday:
My ideal Saturday would involve sleeping late (which means at least until 8:00am), going out for breakfast, spending the day on the water (preferably in a sailboat), making a nice vegetarian meal for dinner, and cuddling up on the couch with my partner and two dogs for a good movie. 

3. What brought you to the great state of Minnesota?
Like so many other “transplants” that I have met, it was love that landed me in Minnesota.  During my senior year at St. Olaf I met my partner, Christie.  While she talked the talk about wanting to live on the east coast (where I grew up), I have come to realize that very few Minnesota girls ever truly end up anywhere else but Minnesota.  We spent four years out in the DC area, but Minnesota’s magnetism was just too much to resist.  We have been back in Minnesota for four years now and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. 

4. We hear your other “hat” has something to do with building boats. What’s that about?
While I haven’t built a boat myself yet, my other hat is as the director of Urban Boatbuilders.  This St. Paul based nonprofit uses the building of wooden boats as a vehicle to engage at-risk teens in the development of academic and vocational skills. 

5. What most excites you about the future of the nonprofit sector?
The idea of collective impact is exciting to me.  Instead of working in competition with one another, nonprofits are increasingly joining forces, each bringing their own strengths, to tackle a difficult societal issue.  I think that strategy has the potential to create immense change in our world. 

6. If you were handed $10 million today, no strings attached, what would you do with it?
I would take $8 million and start a foundation focused on building the capacity of youth development nonprofits.  With the other $2 million, I would buy a new car (to replace my ’93 Explorer), pay off the mortgage, and invest the rest for the future.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Staff Reflections: Why Treaties Matter to the Nonprofit Sector

On August 30th, the Charities Review Council’s staff, board, and committee members gathered to take in and reflect on “Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations”, a traveling exhibition at the Ramsey County Historical Society. This exhibit explores the Native nations in Minnesota and the history of treaty-making with the United States. Board member, LaVon Lee, and her husband, John Poupart, guided a discussion on the exhibit and its meaning for the nonprofit sector. Then staff members took a moment to reflect:

Amy Sinykin
I love how the exhibition reminded me of the Native philosophy about how we’re all related to the earth—how our innate being impacts the land, the plants, animals, and each other. We are all inter-related.  Land isn’t about ownership but it’s about our relationship to other living things. Humans can be so full of hubris to think we are “in charge”, as my 6 year old would say. But we share this world with all living things. At its essence, the “Why Treaties Matter” exhibit was another opportunity for me to continue my learning and cultural understanding.  It re-iterated the importance of relationships and the value of conversations in any culture and in the American Indian culture.

Jenna Salinas
The “Why Treaties Matter” exhibit provided a unique perspective of our State’s history, and of the American Indian experience, both then and now. The exhibit reinforced the importance of taking the time to learn about the backgrounds of others and to recognize how those experiences impact who we are and how we relate to the world. This holds particular importance for our work at the Council, as we strive to reach out to a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations, be mindful of where people are coming from, and remain nimble in how we provide our services to meet all needs.

Kris Kewitsch
The exhibit is a great reminder of how the history that continues to be taught in our classrooms does not present a full picture of what transpired nor why it matters today.  Seeing “Why Treaties Matter” not only taught me historical facts I didn’t know, but made them real and relevant. We cannot begin to meet the needs of the changing demographic in Minnesota without first acknowledging and understanding where we’ve been.

Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson
This exhibit is full of pictures, history, and the present. What I found most powerful was the video of current members of the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations sharing their stories and knowledge. Both elders and young people shared their vision, knowledge, concerns, and, most importantly, solutions for the future. It is amazing what people are capable of; to thrive in the face of tremendous adversity is spirit filling. I walked away with some sadness, a lot of hope, and gratefulness. I want to learn more about what it means to work across sovereign nations.

According to MN Compass, 67,325 American Indians reside in Minnesota, many of whom face disparities in health, income, education, and employment. This population is growing and some outcomes are improving, thanks to many area nonprofits. Seeking knowledge, increasing multicultural participation, and creating reciprocal intercultural relationships are keys to building culturally affirming and relevant nonprofits best positioned for the future of Minnesota.

“Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations” is a collaboration of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, the Minnesota Humanities Center, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. You can find a listing of exhibit dates and locations here: http://www.minnesotahumanities.org/treaties.

Other great exhibits to consider visiting:
Dakota Family Day - Minnesota History Center, St. Paul MN, Sept. 29, Noon to 4 p.m., Free
U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 Exhibit - Minnesota History Center, $6
DED UŋK’UŋPI—WE ARE HERE Exhibit - All My Relations Gallery, Sept. 28, Free

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cool People Have Favorite Accountability Standards

I was at a party recently and a group of us started talking about our favorite Accountability Standard and one poor lad wasn’t able to come up with one on the spot—that was awkward.
Okay, apologies for the lame introduction, but seriously that sounds like a fun party, am I right? Okay, maybe just for fellow nonprofit geeks.
It can take a while to become intimately familiar with each of the 27 Accountability Standards that the Charities Review Council holds at the heart of its nonprofit reviews, but once you do, each one seems precious and absolutely necessary. While I have a bundle of favorites, the one I couldn’t live without (no judging for the melodrama) is the Public Information and Annual Reporting Standard. It’s also the one Standard I’d want any ol’ regular non-nonprofit geek to know by heart.
Why “Public Information and Annual Reporting” is my favorite Accountability Standard:
When a nonprofit is upfront about their mission, governing body, management of financial resources, communities served, and progress towards achieving its mission, it promotes informed and responsible philanthropy. And by upfront, I mean super easy to find. I want to be able to find all of this information in less than three clicks on an organization’s website.
When I’m researching an organization (whether to donate or volunteer), if it’s not on the Charities Review Council’s list of Most Trustworthy Nonprofits, I check the organization’s website. Can I easily find:
·         A mission statement
·         A list of board of directors
·         Annual financial statements (prepared in conformance with GAAP—Generally Accepted Accounting Principles)
·         Summary of the total cost of each major program and the fundraising and administrative costs (as defined by GAAP or IRS guidance for completing IRS Form 990)
·         Descriptions of its programs, activities, and accomplishments in relation to the organization’s mission for at least the most recent fiscal year (note the accomplishments and impact piece is key)
·         Description of the communities or populations and geographic area served
 This might seem like a pretty basic bar, and honestly it is. But it says a lot about an organization and its value for transparency to provide this information easily to constituents.
So when contemplating your own nonprofit geek cred, ask yourself, “Do I have a favorite Accountability Standard?” And if not, it’s high-time you get one. Who knows when you’ll be out on the town and the question gets asked, “So, what Accountability Standard best speaks to you?”