Thursday, February 28, 2013

Marc Hosmer Joins Us for Good This Time!

Marc Hosmer joined the Charities Review Council last fall as a temporary nonprofit services assistant. He fits in so well here that he was recently offered a permanent Program Coordinator position and we were thrilled when he accepted (literally, there was cheering in the office)! Besides his love for nonprofits, his generous spirit, and his boat building skills, we also appreciate his laid-back personality, go-getter attitude, and furniture rearranging abilities.

In his new role, Marc works closely with nonprofits by providing trainings and one-one-one technical assistance as they complete the Accountability Wizard review process. He works tirelessly to ensure that organizations have all the resources, information, and tools necessary to help them as they work to Meet Standards.

When he’s not keeping busy with helping nonprofits, Marc also serves as Executive Director of Urban Boatbuilders, an organization that utilizes the building of wooden boats as a vehicle to develop academic, vocational, and leadership skills in the lives of at-risk youth. He provides leadership to staff and volunteers, oversees fundraising efforts and administers programming; he also works closely with the board of directors to ensure success and facilitate growth for the organization.

“I have two fantastic part time jobs that fulfill my loves of helping nonprofits develop their capacity and leadership within youth development organizations,” said Marc.

Though it seemed an odd combination of responsibilities at first, Marc quickly realized just how intertwined his work has become at both Urban Boatbuilders and the Charities Review Council. Having spent over a decade in nonprofit leadership positions, he mistakenly thought he knew most of what there is to know about effective organizations.

“Becoming familiar with the Accountability Standards has helped me to ensure that Urban Boatbuilders is meeting the expectations of the nonprofit sector and it has greatly informed my work of providing key information and building trust with donors.”

Marc is convinced that going through the Accountability Wizard is valuable for three reasons: 
  1. Earning the Meets Standards seal demonstrates to individual donors and corporate foundations a commitment to running a transparent and accountable organization.
  2. Meeting standards builds confidence within organizations by confirming that they’re doing the right things to ensure accountability, transparency, and legal compliance or creating an awareness of gaps and providing support in addressing those areas of concern. 
  3. The review process is a great vehicle to facilitate board engagement. It provides education and open lines of communication to board members who aren’t steeped in the nonprofit world on a daily basis.
“Time and again we hear how the Accountability Standards lead to important discussions among board and staff, and that it helps individual board members better understand their role and how they can best contribute to the organization.” Marc loves the nonprofit sector, can you tell? 

Way to go, Marc! We’re really psyched you are on our team for good!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Donor Privacy is Where It's At

As the Marketing and Development Specialist here at the Council, it’s my job to make sure the community feels comfortable funding the work that we do. The support we get from our donors powers our progress and protects our mission; you are as much a part
of our work as we are. Our donors help us build capacity in the nonprofit sector; they determine how widely we can deliver our services and how many nonprofits can Meet Standards. For these reasons, I won’t compromise when it comes to protecting our donors. 

We hear from individuals every day who are overwhelmed by the number of solicitation letters they receive from various nonprofits. They’re frustrated and confused, wondering what to do and how their name got on so many mailing lists. Oftentimes, donors don’t realize that they can request only one solicitation per year, or that their name can be removed from a list altogether. Supporters want to make careful decisions about who to fund and how to do that, and we need to find ways to show how important that support is to us.

Here at the Charities Review Council, we have 27 Accountability Standards, but our Donor Privacy Standard is my very favorite. While each and every standard is an important piece of the puzzle, the mutual respect, warmth, and sense of security conveyed by our donor privacy Standard makes me feel like I’m curled up in a blanket with my favorite book next to a roaring fire on a frigid Minnesota evening. But seriously, protecting donor privacy is the least we can do to show how much we value the people who believe in our mission.

The Donor Privacy Standard requires that: 
  • organizations have a privacy policy available explaining how donor information is collected and used;
  • donors are able to prevent their information from being shared upon request;
  • organizations include a discontinue contact policy to guarantee that donors are removed from solicitation lists when requested. 

These policies can look a little bit different depending upon the nonprofit in question. Organizations may include their donor privacy provisions in a Donor Bill of Rights, in regular communication to the donor (e.g. giving envelope), or in a website privacy policy. Be sure to ask your favorite nonprofit about its policy. Find more information on policy requirements on our website.

Like many organizations, here at the Council, we take all donor requests seriously and have a system in place to guarantee that personal information, solicitation and contact preferences are tracked and updated with timeliness and precision.

As organizations who wish to do community good, it is our duty to protect the generosity of those individuals who donate money, resources, and time to us by guarding (and guaranteeing!) their privacy. And as donors, we need to advocate for ourselves to make sure that the letters in our mailboxes come from organizations that ensure the safety and privacy of our protected information.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Calling All Idea People: St. Paul Wants You!

Our staff, from interns to Executive Director, is united on the issue: we love Saint Paul. We love our capital’s neighborly feeling, the walkability of its blocks, the delicious croissants from Trung Nam French Bakery, the quirky finds at Ax-man, and the red leather booths at Mancini’s Char house. We wax poetic: for Golden Thyme CafĂ©, for Irish Fest and for the Riverfront. Our capital city is pretty great already, and we want to help create a vision for an even more exciting future.

It’s not surprising, then, that we’re thrilled to support the Saint Paul Foundation’s Forever Saint Paul Challenge, a million dollar idea challenge to make our capital city forever strong. The Saint Paul Foundation invites individuals, groups, and organizations who love Saint Paul as much as we do to propose million dollar ways to make this great city even better than it already is. The winning idea will receive a $1 million grant to put their plan into action.

We’re putting our thinking caps on, and the lightbulbs are already illuminating, both figuratively and literally. Last week our team helped artist Ta-coumba Aiken place Lite-Brite pegs into what we hope will be a record breaking installation. We added just 21 small sections to what has now grown into an astounding community built art project, in anticipation of the Forever Saint Paul kick-off event this Saturday. If you’re reading this, we’d like you to consider entering the Forever Saint Paul Challenge. We believe that putting our heads together is the best way to grow great ideas.

Here’s how you can join us in supporting the Forever Saint Paul Challenge:

Attend the launch event: If you love Saint Paul, we ask that you join the St. Paul Foundation and Mayor Chris Coleman at the public launch event on Saturday, February 16th at the Union Depot, where Forever St. Paul supporters, along with local artist Ta-coumba Aiken, will attempt to set a Guinness World Record, "Largest Picture Made of Lite-Brite." The Lite-Brite mural will be 12 feet by 24 feet and filled with more than 520,000 Lite-Brite pegs. Family-friendly activities start at 3:00 p.m. and the official lighting ceremony will be at 7:00 p.m. There will also be live music, food and super-sized games. The event is free and open to the public, so bring an entourage!

Volunteer as a community reviewer: Community reviewers are needed to review the million dollar ideas and help narrow them to 25 semifinalists from April 6-24. You can sign up online at For questions about being a community reviewer, contact Cat Beltmann at Citizens League, or 651.289.1075.

Submit an idea: Tell us what you would do with $1 million to make St. Paul an even better place to live at

The Charities Review Council invites our friends, our allies and favorite nonprofits to join us in supporting this exciting project and in entering great ideas. Game on!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Partnering for Stronger Nonprofits in Greater Minnesota

What do Bremer Bank, MAP for Nonprofits, and the Charities Review Council have in common? We’re working together to strengthen greater Minnesota’s nonprofit landscape. We’re thrilled to report that on January 9-11, the Charities Review Council and the Bremer Bank Branch of Brainerd hosted another successful workshop in the Strengthening Nonprofits series supported by the Otto Bremer Foundation. More than 25 local nonprofits in the Brainerd Lakes area have joined this effort to build their capacity and organizational strength as they work to meet standards.

Our Capacity Building Services work with funders in the communities or topics they serve to make the Accountability Standards accessible, non-threatening and easy to achieve for nonprofits. Our workshops create a safe, fun, engaging, personal and risk-free space for organizations to go through our process.

Before the Charities Review Council began collaborating with the Otto Bremer Foundation and Bremer Banks, there were only four organizations from the Brainerd Lakes area on the Charities Review Council’s list of nearly 500 nonprofits that Meet Standards. “Now, there are more than 25 organizations that have started the Accountability Wizard and they are all on track to Meet Standards in the next six months to a year,” reports Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, the Charities Review Council’s Program Director, who led the Brainerd workshop series.

This means that there is now a group of organizations in greater Minnesota who share a language about how to build sustainable nonprofits while meeting donor and sector expectations. The Accountability Standards give nonprofits the opportunity to advance their mission by becoming more transparent and accountable, helping improve visibility, reputation, and public trust. This can translate into more effective organizations and much more viable outcomes for these nonprofits.

“While miles and lakes separate our communities, they’re facing many of the same challenges in greater Minnesota as nonprofits in the Twin Cities,” said Atlas-Ingebretson. 

“Capacity building and support in greater Minnesota are much needed, as populations are declining and shifting, poverty is on the rise, and there is less money to go around.” Through our partnership with Bremer Bank, we’ve been able to make a difference for nonprofits in Brainerd, and we hope to continue this work in communities across the state and beyond. 

At the Charities Review Council, we’re committed to building collaborations. It is exciting to be working with Amy Wyant and the Bremer Bank of Brainerd. They have contributed their time, space and resources to ensure the success of our efforts for the common good of the Brainerd Lakes area. It has similarly been rewarding to strengthen our relationship with nonprofit allies, like MAP for Nonprofits, who provided key expertise during our workshops. Many thanks to Amy and our Bremer Bank family, and Jay Lyons and Phil Duran from MAP for Nonprofits.

To talk about how we can work together, contact Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson (651-224-7030).

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Get to Know Kate Khaled!

Kate Khaled joined the Charities Review Council last month as the Engagement and Development Manager. Her primary duties include building relationships with constituents while overseeing the Council's fundraising, marketing, and communications strategies.

1. How did you end up in Minnesota?
I grew up in Montreal, Quebec, but spent my childhood summers up north near Grand Rapids, Minnesota where my grandparents have a summer home. I’m the daughter of two of Roseville’s cutest high school sweethearts, so all of my holidays and vacations were spent here with our extended family. When it came time for me to think about graduate school, the University of Minnesota appealed to me because it was a great program, new and also familiar. In my second year pursuing my Masters of Public Health, I met my own sweetheart, Taqee. He ‘put a ring on it,’ and the rest is history. I love this state and I couldn't be happier to be building my career and raising my children here.

2. What about working at the Charities Review Council attracted you to the job?
The Charities Review Council is a unique resource that adds an incredible amount of value to our nonprofit and philanthropic landscape. It’s an organization with a rich history that also has an eye toward the future. This role attracted me because our team is poised to grow into an even stronger, farther-reaching, innovative ally for nonprofits and donors alike. I’m also really excited to be working with Kris Kewitsch, our new Executive Director. She has great ideas and a strategic mind. Our team has so much energy, and I’m excited to help the Council connect with the community even more than we already do!

3. Tell us 3 unexpected things about yourself: 
Well, you probably wouldn’t guess this by looking at me, but I’m a proud and active member of the Twin Cities Muslim community. Also, since I’m married to a second generation Bangladeshi-American, my culinary repertoire has expanded tremendously. I make a mean chicken korma. What else? I’ve been an outdoor enthusiast all my life. I took my first ten day wood-canvas canoe trip when I was twelve, and have been hooked ever since. In college, I spent my summers teaching paddling techniques and leading sea kayaking trips in the Apostle Islands. Despite being raised in Montreal, I suppose my love of paddling and portaging makes me a Minnesotan to the core.

4. What do you like to read?
I read the Harvard Business Review blog every day to get my daily shot of professional inspiration. In my spare time I blog about family at Perpetually Nesting, so I read many of my friends’ nationally recognized parenting and lifestyle blogs. There are a lot of terribly talented writers online who come from Minnesota. Oh! Let’s also not forget Minnesota Rising and Pollen – two of our homegrown resources for civic connectivity. I read (and tweet!) a lot.

5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Turkey, Malaysia and New Zealand. Since our life has been so busy, we haven’t had a honeymoon yet. That combination, over a 6 week span of time, would be my dream travel itinerary.

6. What’s your favorite restaurant of all time?
I love Little Szechuan’s authentic menu – their Chung King Chili Shrimp is amazing. I also am a huge fan of Cecil’s Deli. When scheduling lunch meetings, I usually try to persuade people to meet me at Cecil’s!

7. Name 3 of your passions/hobbies.
As a social media native and technology enthusiast, I’m continually exploring creative ways disruptive technology (like social media) can be leveraged for good. Most of my time at home is spent cooking and entertaining. When I’m not hosting brunch for family and friends, I’m usually writing, playing with my boys or restoring mid-century furniture in our garage.