Friday, December 18, 2015

The Nonprofits Strengthening Project

Imagine if you could offer your grantees a fully customized capacity building and technical assistance program that would:
  • Focus on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  • Foster Collaboration
  • Leverage Technology
  • Build New Donor In-Roads
  • Celebrate Hard Work
All for the cost of a single program. 

If you haven’t yet figured out an affordable way to incorporate capacity building and technical assistance into your 2016 grantmaking budget, we have the answer. 

The Nonprofits Strengthening Project is an innovative solution from Charities Review Council that enables funders to be responsive and responsible grantee partners. Each project includes carefully designed programming that leverages community and technology, with the goal being to strengthen the capacity of our nonprofit partner's ability to pursue their mission.

Learn more about the Nonprofits Strengthening Project here.

But don't take our word for it, check out Rudy Guglielmo's blog post* below highlighting our long standing partnership with Youthprise and their grantees.
*Originally published April 20, 2015


Youthprise & Charities Review Council's Strengthening Project

by Rudy Guglielmo Jr., Program Officer at Youthprise

Rudy Guglielmo Jr.
I am pleased to share the results of our Nonprofits Strengthening Project with Charities Review Council (the Council) to build capacity for the nonprofits we fund. The project was very successful, engaging more than 35 Youthprise grantees. 

Upon project completion, 26% of participating grantees had successfully completed the Accountability Wizard®, thus earning the Meets Standards® seal, a visual marker of nonprofit strength; 63% of participating grantees had completed the Accountability Wizard® and were working on tangible action steps needed in order to meet all 25 of the Council’s Accountability Standards®.

Building on the success of the 2012 project, the 2014 Nonprofits Strengthening Project engaged an additional 21 Youthprise grantees. Currently, 9% of participating grantees Meet Standards®, and 57% are working on action steps needed in order to Meet Standards®. We anticipate that the remaining organizations will Meet Standards® by 2016.

I believe this was accomplished through the Strengthening Workshop Series, access to the Council’s online capacity building tool, the Accountability Wizard® and its customized one-on-one support.

We also learned that compliance with the Charities Review Council’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Standard was a challenge for Youthprise grantees. Grantees reported a need for information on best practices and a leader to promote the value of work in diversity and inclusion. In response, future capacity building efforts will focus on tools to assess racial participation. We are excited by the potential to influence the nonprofit sector at its approaches for diversity and inclusion.

You can read the full report, prepared by Charities Review Council, here.

This blog is published with permission from Rudy Guglielmo, Program Officer at Youthprise who's mission is to champion learning beyond the classroom so that all Minnesota youth thrive. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Annual Forum 2015: Radical Collaboration

"Energizing, dynamic, electrifying, inspiring, experimental." Those were just a few of the words attendees used to describe Annual Forum 2015 - Philanthropy 2.0: Radical Collaboration, and we couldn't agree more! At Annual Forum 2015, we asked you to join us as we imagine, create and innovate a new future of philanthropy with donors and nonprofits working together in authentic, trusting and collaborative partnership, for the greater good. This year's theme, Radical Collaboration, encouraged attendees to not only attend, but to participate.

Re-live the Annual Forum 2015 experience with our Annual Forum video, attendee tweets, event photos, and more!

Annual Forum 2015: Radical Collaboration from Charities Review Council on Vimeo.

With help from SPARKit, a mobile pop-up park that encourages creative exchange through games, art-making, and a festive atmosphere, and DJ extraordinaire Lizzy Shramko, we hosted our first session of the day, Making New Connections, a fun and engaging networking hour. Radical collaboration requires a first step, an initial introduction, a space and place to find common ground. At Annual Forum 2015, attendees where challenged to take the first step and meet someone new.

"I love that from the very start I was challenged to think in radically different ways- about networking, about what to expect from a conference!"

"It was a great way to start the forum. Awesome vibe!"

Attendees were then invited to pause, listen and learn at our second session of the day, Radical Collaboration in Action. To set the stage, Dameun Strange, a Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow at the Bush Foundation, shared his perspective on collaboration, jazz music and leadership.

KBDS creating a musical collaboratio
Dameun and Khalil Brewington, who together make up KBDS, then shared a LIVE, musical, radical collaboration, creating a piece of music inspired by the day.

"Great panelists and discussion. Loved the integration of the arts/music." 

Our cross-sector leadership panel then provided examples of innovative, disruptive and collaborative projects and programs happening right here in Minnesota and beyond.

Panelists included:

Here were just a few of the many share-able moments!

First lesson learned at #AnnualForum15 Radical Collaboration: Collaboration looks like you and me. It's serious and...
Posted by Charities Review Council on Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Through conversation, both in-person and online, around the benefits, and let's admit it, the challenges, that accompany new collaborative projects, attendees left feeling inspired, energized and equipped with tools for integrating collaboration into their daily work.

Anna Love-Mickelson, co-founder of stoke.d and professor at the Stanford University School of Design, then moved us into our last session of the day, the Open Source Brainstorms. Our goal for this session was to create a space and place for individuals, like you, to bring ideas and opportunities for collaboration, to the table.

Participants self-selected into small group conversations around these five key themes.
Each theme prefaced by 'How might we....'
  • create self-identified philanthropists using education and skill-building?
  • help boards and nonprofits reflect and include the communities they serve?
  • make the communication between donors and nonprofits easy and seamless?
  • leverage technology to strengthen the relationship between donors and nonprofits?
  • communicate to the world the outcome of our work in a meaningful way?
Using elements of design thinking and a group of dynamic, philanthropic leaders to help facilitate small group conversations, attendees generated more than 350 ideas and potential solutions to the questions identified above.

With the incredible knowledge, skill and expertise in the room, there were far too many ideas to share out at the event. But don't worry! Charities Review Council announced that it will be sharing "an idea a day" across our social media platforms (Facebook & Twitter). We hope that you might be inspired by an idea generated at Annual  and run with it! Follow us online to see the ideas, share your thoughts and continue the #DisruptMN conversation.

In addition to sharing "an idea a day," Charities Review Council also announced Open Source Brainstorm Labs, as a space and place for individuals to continue to come together, design and create collaborative solutions. Stay tuned for more information to come in 2016. 

The Annual Forum continues to be a place for making new connections, deepening existing relationships, experiential learning and fun! This year, we learned that collaboration isn't always easy or comfortable, and it's definitely not linear, but is necessary in order to create meaningful change. We hope that you'll join us at Annual Forum 2016 as we continue to grow the greater good in partnership. Click here to join our invite list.

P.S. Go ahead, tag yourself and your friends in the event photos, here!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What We've Been Reading: 'Tis the Season of Giving Edition

'Tis the season of giving! Whether you're a nonprofit fundraising professional, a generous donor, or both we're here to help you prepare for the fast approaching year-end giving season by sharing what we've been reading this month. Articles include topics such as Give to the Max Day, Giving Tuesday, smart giving tips, and more!


Give to the Max Day wraps up, tops $18 million, by Jean Hopfensperger (Star Tribune)

The seventh annual, 24-hour online give-a-thon, Give to the Max Day brought in more than $18 million from a record-breaking 62,740 donors, benefiting more than 5,500 Minnesota nonprofits and schools. Whether nonprofits or schools "trotted out cute puppies, lip-synced songs, ran on treadmills, or built a kayak," Give to the Max Day illustrated, yet again, Minnesota's strong culture of philanthropy with donors and nonprofits working as engaged partners, for the greater good. Way to go, Minnesota! To read more on this record-breaking day, click here.

On Tap for Giving Tuesday: Collaboration, Creativity, and Revenue Growth, by Eden Stiffman (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a global day of philanthropy. Continuing to gain traction, Giving Tuesday raised $46 million for nonprofits last year, up from $38 million the year before. Here's a look at what's ahead and some advice for making the most out of this special giving holiday.

Tips for Giving This Holiday Season: 5-Step Checklist for Maximizing Year-End Donations (Charity Navigator)

As a generous donor and nonprofit supporter, this time of year often correlates to a mailbox full of heart-felt appeal letters, from hundreds of worthy causes. So, how do you choose? At Charities Review Council, we know that all donors are investors and that every precious dollar matters. That's why we love partnering with you to make smart giving decisions, using your head and your heart. Check out Charity Navigators 5-step checklist as a reminder for what to look for when making a giving decision. Click here to read more.

Tips and Tools to Maximize Year-End Giving (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

"According to Charity Navigator, 40 percent of all charitable donations in a given year come during the Giving Season," and according to the Network for Good, "From 2011 to 2014, December donations increased by 49 percent." As a nonprofit enthusiast, you've probably heard the statistics. So, now what? This article does the resource gathering for you! Take a look at the articles they've gathered to maximize your year-end giving strategy, here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Give with your Head and your Heart this Give to the Max Day!

Get your Giving Guides ready, Minnesota's 24-hour online give-a-thon. aka Give to the Max Day, is almost here! 

At Charities Review Council, we know that all donors are investors and that every precious dollar matters. That's why we're partnering with you in preparation for Give to the Max Day, to provide smart giving tips and our most up-to-date listing of Meets Standards® organizations, so that you can feel confident in your Give to the Max Day giving decisions.

What is Give to the Max Day? Give to the Max Day is Minnesota's 24-hour online give-a-thon, where generous donors, like you, celebrate giving by supporting causes you care about at Last year, more than 62,000 donors logged on to give more than 18 million dollars. That's huge!

Why should I participate? GiveMN's Give to the Max Day makes giving to your favorite causes easy and fun! Not so easily convinced? Here are our top 3 reasons why we know you'll love supporting your favorite Minnesota causes on Give to the Max Day:
  1. GOLDEN TICKETS: Every hour, GiveMN will be awarding one Golden Tickets of $1,000 through a random drawing of all donations transacted during the previous hour. So your $10 donation could turn into $1,000 for your favorite nonprofit! That's great, but it gets better. GiveMN will also be awarding one super-sized $10,000 Golden Ticket through a random drawing of all donations transacted on Give to the Max Day. So go ahead, grab your lucky socks and give to your favorite Minnesota causes for a chance to turn your gift of $10 (or more) into $10,000. 
  2. MATCHING GIFT: At Charities Review Council, we have a $5,000 board match, meaning that when you a make a gift of $10 or more your gift is DOUBLED with matching funds provided by our Board of Directors! (Applicable for the first $5,000 in donations.) 
  3. GIVER'S GLOW: Research shows that acts of philanthropy benefit the recipient and the giver! They call it giver's glow or helper's high. Join the "Great Minnesota Give Together," get your giver's glow and invite your friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers to do the same!
When is Give to the Max Day? Give to the Max Day is Thursday, November 12, 2015. Mark your calendar, set your alarm or schedule a donation right now! Give to the Max Day doesn't take place until the 12th, but you can schedule your gift now and still have it count towards the prizes outlined above.

To schedule your gift go to

Give with your head and your heart this Give to the Max Day! Giving to a nonprofit for the first time? Be a smart giver with these 3 easy steps.
  1. Whether it is finding a cure for cancer, like Meets Standards® organization Children's Cancer Research Fund, or finding loving homes for animals in need, like the Animal Humane Society, identify a worthy cause that aligns with your values and beliefs. 
  2. Once you've identified a cause, use our list of strong, trustworthy nonprofits to streamline your search and vetting process. Organizations on this list have partnered with us to align their policies, practices and procedures to widely accepted standards of nonprofit accountability and strength. Don't see an organization on our list? Contact our Nonprofit Services Team at 651-224-7030 for more information.  
  3. Check out the nonprofit's IRS Form 990 (Part III, Question 4 is a good starting point) to learn more about the organization's program activities. You can also take a look at the organization's mission statement, goals and accomplishments. Do they align with your values and interests? 
Equipped with the Give to the Max day details, smart giving tips and our list of strong, trustworthy nonprofits, you're ready to show off your "Minnesota Nice" by giving a gift to Charities Review Council and one (or more!) of your favorite Meets Standards® nonprofits on Thursday, November 12th.

Ready, set, GIVE! Go to to get started.

Oh, and don't forget to share your giving story using the hashtags #SmartGiving and #GTMD15! Here's a sample tweet/Facebook post to get you started:

Twitter: Showing off my "MN Nice" with a gift to @smartgivers on Give to the Max Day! #GTMD15

Facebook: My "Minnesota Nice" went a long way today with a gift to Charities Review Council! A gift to the Council is like a gift to the whole nonprofit sector! #GTMD15 #StrengtheningNonprofits

Monday, November 2, 2015

Collaboration through the Years

Judy Alnes, Executive Director at MAP for Nonprofits 
At Annual Forum 2015 we talked Radical Collaboration as a way to launch into a new era philanthropy where donors and nonprofits are working together towards the greater good. MAP for Nonprofits has been helping nonprofit organizations explore and construct alliances and strategic restructuring since 2007 through mergers, joint ventures, program transfers, shared services and acquisitions. So, who better to share their thoughts on collaboration through the years than MAP’s Executive Director Judy Alnes?

We met with to Judy to get a better understanding of MAP's restructuring services, her thoughts on nonprofit collaboration, the nonprofit sector, and her personal dreams for collaboration.

Strategic Alliances aka Nonprofit Match-Makers

In 2007, MAP added merger/redesign consultation to their mix of services as they encountered a peaked interest in organizations exploring mergers, acquisitions, program transfers and more, in an effort to stabilize and survive during tough economic times. In 2009. MAP published MergeMinnesota, providing step-by-step merger guidance to nonprofit organizations. And in 2012, in partnership with Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, they were the first to publish findings on factors that create successful mergers in Success Factors in Nonprofit Mergers. To put it simply, when it comes to nonprofit mergers, MAP knows what they're doing!

According to Judy, since 2007 there's been a definite shift in the way nonprofits approach collaborative opportunities. "Organizations are now focused on trying to find the right partner to advance the work."  It's less about trying to stabilize/survive and more about strategic decisions to further the work. So where does MAP come into play? MAP is there to play nonprofit "match-maker," offering consulting services to help pair organizations with similar goals, hopes and dreams.

Opportunities for Radical Collaboration

"More and more leaders are seeing the value in collaboration," Judy shared when asked how she's seen collaboration change over the years. "But collaboration takes time, energy, trust and common ground, and too often people are looking for speedy results."  She went on to say, "We can't solve problems in a day. Sometimes the tough work takes time."

We couldn't agree more! At Annual Forum 2015, we took a closer look at 'Radical Collaboration' asking, what does real, authentic collaboration look like? How can we partner in new ways to achieve even greater outcomes? And, how does collaboration help build our community as a whole? Annual Forum panelists (pictured below) shared openly about their efforts to achieve authentic and meaningful collaboration, including discussion around both the success and challenges that can accompany a collaborative venture. But, Judy's right, it's not easy. Change is rarely easy, but is necessary in order to make space for new ideas and even greater outcomes.

Annual Forum 2015, Leadership Panel: Radical Collaboration in Action
When asked what she sees as opportunities for collaboration in the future, Judy mentioned organizations with common missions and goals coming together to create meaningful, lasting change. "Too often work is piecemeal-ed and uncoordinated. People/organizations need to become less territorial and less competitive if we are to solve some of the issues that need resolution." Judy went on to say, "Boards play a huge role. Instead of focusing on preserving the organization at all costs, they should instead be focused on advancing the mission and working towards solving the problem." 

What's next for MAP?

Judy and the MAP team is excited to announce their new partnership with BoardSource. Together they'll develop and launch a large-scale campaign focused on creating a sustainable shift in board attitudes and practices that will support nonprofit collaborations and restructuring.  "We aim to inspire boards to think and act differently so that the most meaningful structures for carrying out their missions can be realized."

Before our time with Judy was up, we had to ask, what is one Radical Collaboration you wish you could make happen? Judy's dream for collaboration is to reclaim the night sky from light pollution. "There's a massive universe out there and we're robbing generations of being able to feel connected to something greater than themselves, through night pollution." 

To learn more about MAP check out their website at

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What We've Been Reading: Radical Collaboration Edition

At Charities Review Council, we're still reeling from the innovative, collaborative and disruptive stories we heard at Annual Forum 2015-Philanthropy 2.0: Radical Collaboration. See what we've been reading since to keep our collaborative spirits fueled. 

This article explores the philanthropic consulting group Geneva Global, an organization that facilitates ‘dumbbell collaboration.’ Traditional collaborative relationships between nonprofits and foundations can be tricky, but Ava Lala, a director at Geneva Global, explains their solution. The group acts as “the handle in the middle that connects the two [weights],” nonprofits and donors, by pairing funders with compatible nonprofits as well as helping to manage donor funds. This directly relates to how Charities Review Council does its work, focusing on the relationship between the donor and nonprofit in order to achieve our mission! What are some non-traditional, maybe even “radical,” ways that you could collaborate with others to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues? Open Source Brainstorm Labs at the Council (Beginning January 2016) anyone? 

While collaboration between nonprofits is extremely important, we must not forget about the cooperative relationship needed between nonprofits and other sectors. As Le puts it, “Our communities can't afford for business, government, and nonprofits to be so siloed from one another.” This article emphasizes that all hands on deck are essential as we combat societal issues, expressing that “the challenges [are increasing] exponentially [as] resources... remain the same or [are] decreasing.” The article gives some serious tips for accomplishing collaboration, like networking and joining an organization outside of your sector, and some not so serious, but fun tips, like hosting a cross-sector cuddle party or karaoke night to help promote collaboration (we’re in!). 

Implementing collective impact and promoting structured collaboration to solve societal issues is a concept that is positively accepted by most, but an approach that can be difficult to achieve. This article addresses the issue, stating “to make such a structured collaboration not just possible, but also highly probable, we need an environment in which stakeholders can perform their individual roles optimally while also collaborating with each other effectively.” In order to accomplish this collaboration, the author argues that we must build awareness for the issue, build the capacity of stakeholders to help them perform at scale, and nurture a culture where collective impact can flourish. Why is a collective impact important to you and the causes that you believe in?

What have you been reading lately? Let us know if you come across an article or resource that is informative or inspirational. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Meet Katy Putzker: Our New Nonprofit Services Intern!

Charities Review Council is excited to welcome, Katy Putzker, as our new Nonprofit Services Intern! Katy is currently a junior at the University of Minnesota where she studies Nonprofit Management and Marketing (talk about a perfect fit!). Originally from Montana, Katy moved to the Twin Cities for school, but is no stranger to the state of Minnesota. Katy has family in the area and to her Minnesota is a "home away from home." Katy is passionate about mental health and ending the stigma that surrounds it, especially on college campuses. Having experienced her own journey with mental health concerns after losing her dad unexpectedly a year and a half ago, Katy acts as an advocate for others. Katy is excited to be introduced to the nonprofit sector through Charities Review Council and cannot wait to learn more!

To better get to know our new Council team member, we sat down with Katy to ask her the tough questions: If you could be any superhero who would you be and why? And perhaps more seriously, what's your favorite Accountability Standard®? See what Katy had to say here:

1. What is your favorite Accountability Standard®?
My favorite Accountability Standard® is the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Standard. I think it's really important for nonprofits to be representative and inclusive of the population they serve so as to keep in mind the interests and concerns of that population. This standard allows nonprofits to be directly connected to the communities they serve, to maintain public trust, support organizational sustainability, and foster effectiveness. 

2. How have you seen nonprofits have an effect on our community?
Nonprofits have the ability to benefit communities in a way that for-profit organizations cannot. Nonprofits create community and provide support for important causes. Nonprofits lead the way, creating awareness and education on issues that would not likely be discussed otherwise. I have personally seen the benefit that nonprofits provide while volunteering for various organizations. 

3. When you're not strengthening the capacity of nonprofit organizations by interning at Charities Review Council, what do you like to do for fun? 
I am currently taking an ice-skating course at the UofM, so that is always something I enjoy doing in my free time. I love being around friends whenever possible, even if we're doing absolutely nothing. I also have a slight Netflix addiction. I can watch Gilmore Girls over and over without getting sick of it – such a classic and real show!

4. If you could be a superhero, who would you be? And why?
Not necessarily a superhero, but a superhero in my book, Frozone's wife for the response she gives in the Disney Movie The Incredibles. 

When Frozone asks “Where is my super suit? This is the greater good we are talking about!” 
She replies “I am your wife, I am the greatest good you are ever gonna get!” 

So really, who’s the true hero here? 

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

To learn more about the nonprofit sector and to help nonprofits go through the Accountability Wizard® review process. I am eager to learn and experience all that I can while working with Charities Review Council!

Katy will be working with us on nonprofit reviews, as well as nonprofit communications and outreach. Join us in welcoming Katy to the Council by reaching out to her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Radical Collaboration: Making New (Weird) Connections.

Leaders, innovators, collaborators, get ready! Annual Forum 2015 is just around the corner on Tuesday, September 22nd. To kick-off the annual forum experience, we're beginning the day with Radical Collaboration: Making New Connections, a fun and interactive networking event.

Carl Atiya Swanson at Annual Forum 2014: Disruptive Philanthropy
We're asking attendees to take a risk, challenge the status-quo, and be willing to engage with a new 'Weird Friend,' a term shared with us by Carl Atiya Swanson, Director of Movement Building at Springboard for the Arts and Annual Forum Committee member. 

Weird Friends, is the "fundamental notion that we are all more interesting people, that our teams are better and organizations more resilient, when we're not always around the same type of person." 

Building a network of weird friends can challenge us to engage more conscientiously in the world around us and think more creatively as we endeavor to solve problems, but it takes stepping outside of our comfort zone. As Carl puts it, "being comfortable doesn't help you grow." You have to be get comfortable, being uncomfortable.

Radical Collaboration is possible when you welcome risk, have an openness to the unknown and a willingness to engage. 

Carl has inspired us to be bold in our pursuit for Radical Collaboration at Annual Forum 2015. So we're asking you to do the same. But, we get it. Meeting someone for the first time can often feel awkward or even intimidating. So we asked Carl to share his tips and tricks for incorporating weird friends before, during and after Annual Forum 2015.

Carl's Tips for 'Weird Friend' Success:
  1. Meeting someone for the first time? Embrace the awkwardness of it. It'll give you something to laugh about later.
  2. Twitter, pay attention to it. Don't be afraid to walk up to someone and say, "Your tweet really resonated with me." 
Hey, Carl! Your tweet really resonated with us.

"We have to be willing to change. We have to be open to discomfort. We have to hold it close & hold the space. We do it together. #DisruptMN" 

- A tweet from Carl at Annual Forum 2014: Disruptive Philanthropy. 

Joining us at this year's networking event is nonprofit enthusiast and artist Soozin Hirschmugl, with SPARKit, a mobile pop-up park that encourages creative exchange through games, art making, music, and a festive atmosphere, as well as Council DJ, Lizzy Shramko. With a DJ in-house, and fun activities to help conversations flow naturally, who knows, you just might form a new Radical Collaboration.

Friday, August 28, 2015

NEW! Better Together Award

Charities Review Council is excited to announce the NEW Better Together Award!

At Charities Review Council, our focus is on building authentic relationships between donors and nonprofits using our Accountability Standards®, by providing the spaces, places and tools to do just that. We know that our community is stronger when donors and nonprofits deliver the greater good in partnership. In fact, nothing excites us more than when we see a nonprofit working hand in hand with their donors to create even greater impact in our community. At Annual Forum 2015, we'll have the opportunity to highlight those partnerships with the all NEW Better Together Award

We want to highlight YOU! The Better Together Award will recognize an engaged, creative, and collaborative donor-nonprofit relationship that is changing the community for the better. As our Executive Director, Kris Kewitsch, says, “Last year’s Annual Forum generated palpable energy and excitement, highlighting unusual partnerships between donors and nonprofits.” Kris and the Charities Review Council team are excited to continue the #DisruptMN conversation, which recognizes the value of coming together in new and creative ways to create even greater outcomes. 

To illustrate what a creative, collaborative donor-nonprofit relationship could look like, we called in our reinforcements; engaged Council donors and supporters, Lorraine Hart, Lee Hickerson, and Nausheena Hussain, who in partnership, help us achieve our mission of mobilizing informed donors and accountable nonprofits for the greater good.

Lorraine Hart, a long-time supporter of Charities Review Council, says, "As a donor, the Council's list is my first screen for organizations I consider supporting. I can have confidence that these organizations meet standards for fundraising, financial activity, governance, and public disclosure. Having the Accountability Standards in place frees me up to focus on the mission of the organizations and how I can become involved in the nonprofits and missions that matter to me.”

Lee Hickerson, a self-proclaimed “Council Cheerleader,” says, "I see myself as a catalyst for approaching nonprofits that have not met Standards yet and urging them to consider going through the review process. I believe that if we are good stewards of the community, the whole community benefits.”

Nausheena Hussain, a nonprofit partner from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR-MN), says, "Charities Review Council is one of the best tool kits out there! It’s a one-stop shop to take your organization to the next level. It can really change how you interact with the donor base.” 

Nausheena also shared a favorite Charities Review Council memory, which was the Ramadan design-thinking session for CAIR-MN“We were skeptical at first and saw it as a risk, but we were really trying to disrupt how things are done. We asked the community, ‘How can we help?’ and the entire room just lit up. This was the first time the community had felt invited to participate in the conversation. It showed that when the community is part of the equation, we can be better together.

We want to hear from you! Apply today for the NEW Better Together Award for a chance to win $1,000 for your nonprofit organization. 

  • How does your organization partner with donors in a unique, and meaningful way?
  • What makes your donors so crucial to the work that you're doing?
  • Donors, how are you partnering with a nonprofit organization to create lasting impact?

Donors and/or nonprofits are encouraged to apply. Donors applying should work together with the partner nonprofit to complete the application requirements.

We look forward to hearing from YOU about your collaborative and creative donor-nonprofit relationship! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Philanthropy 2.0: Radical Collaboration

We took a risk! 

In 2014, we expanded our traditional keynote Annual Forum luncheon to be a full-day, interactive, learning and networking experience. We created a place where the full spectrum of Minnesota's philanthropic community could come together to honor the history of generosity, and together imagine a new future where donors, funders, nonprofit and community leaders could do even more good together. 

Last year's Annual Forum theme, Disruptive Philanthropy, developed from the idea that change isn't always easy or comfortable, but is necessary in order to make space for new ideas and even better outcomes. What we found was that people were ready and excited to challenge the philanthropic status-quo. People were ready to move Disruptive Philanthropy into action. 

Watch: Video Recap of Annual Forum 2014: Disruptive Philanthropy

With over 850+ ideas generated at Annual Forum 2014, the Council winnowed them down to these five significant themes.

  • Philanthropic education & skill-building
  • Authentic collaboration
  • Increased transparency & improved communication
  • Advancing technology for greater good
  • Shared value of capacity building & impact measurement

On March 24th, 2015, we hosted the #DisruptMN Town Hall to reconvene, share what we had learned, and begin to move Disruptive Philanthropy into action. 

With a room full of innovative, collaborative-thinking, and engaged cross-sector leaders we continued to challenge the traditional model of philanthropy by providing the space for conversation to take place. It was a great place to start, but without a plan and the collaborative will to put the ideas into action, often these great conversations go without action. 
So we asked #DisruptMN Town Hall attendees to help move this work forward, and 24 people committed to action! The appetite for change was evident. 

We're at it again! 

It's time to continue the conversation and make a move towards action.  Charities Review Council is excited to present Annual Forum 2015, Philanthropy 2.0: Radical Collaboration. When it comes to Radical Collaboration, we believe everyone has something to ask and something to offer. Annual Forum 2015 will provide the space, place and tools to bring the ideas and opportunities together. 

At Annual Forum 2015, you'll hear from cross-sector leaders who are leading the way in innovative, disruptive and collaborative efforts both nationally and locally. We'll also hear from you! Minnesota has long been recognized for its strong nonprofit and philanthropic infrastructure, so where better to look for the answers to our burning questions around Radical Collaboration than right here in our nonprofit community. Annual Forum 2015 will provide the space to make that a reality.

To learn more about Annual Forum 2015, Philanthropy 2.0: Radical Collaboration, check out our website at


Register today to join us Tuesday, September 22 at Annual Forum 2015, Philanthropy 2.0: Radical Collaboration!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

When a Purchase is also a Donation

Charities Review Council's Accountability Standards® are based on the value of establishing trusting and meaningful partnerships between nonprofit organizations, donors, and the general public. At Charities Review Council, we believe strengthening these relationships can help us better understand how to effectively engage the communities we serve.

Cause-related marketing offers a meaningful opportunity for community engagement.
Cause-related marketing allows a for-profit organization to partner with a nonprofit organization by selling a good or service with a designated percentage of profits donated to a charitable cause. The partnership between a for-profit and nonprofit organization aligns with Charities Review Council’s value of establishing relationships based on mutual benefit and public good.

At a glance, cause-related marketing presents a scenario in which everyone wins.

  • Corporations increase profit revenues, strengthen their reputations, and expand brand recognition.
  • Charities generate funds and raise awareness for a particular social cause.
  • Consumers feel reassured that a portion of their purchases will be utilized in a meaningful way.  

However, some would argue that the benefits of cause-related marketing are 
short-lived. For example, imagine a shopper who chooses to buy coffee that promotes world peace, cereal that supports early childhood education, yogurt that funds breast cancer research, and, as a last minute impulse, a chocolate bar that promises to protect animal wildlife. By filling a shopping cart with products promising to make the world a better place, consumers such as this one may feel that they have already fulfilled their philanthropic responsibilities. For donors, cause-related marketing is attractive because it provides an easy and convenient way to support a charitable cause.

The danger of cause-related marketing is that it may lead individuals to overestimate the value of their charitable consumption patterns and underestimate the reality of social problems in our society.

Buying a chocolate bar at a grocery store that donates a portion of its proceeds to environmental sustainability won't save the world. After all, the reality of environmental degradation cannot be condensed into a simple label designed to boost sales. 

However, buying products that support charitable causes can make a small difference and represent an increased trend towards ethical consumerism.

If choosing to make a purchase of this kind, be sure to ask:

  • What percentage of my purchase today is going towards the nonprofit organization? Charities Review Council's Soliciting Practices Accountability Standard® requires that the percent going towards the cause be made available upon request. As a donor, you should look for a disclosure that looks something like this, "10% of your purchase today is going to support X nonprofit." 
  • Is it clear what nonprofit organization I am supporting with my purchase? Sometimes it's not clear what nonprofit is being supported. As a donor, you are entitled to know who your gift will be benefiting. So before you give, ASK who will this gift benefit?

Although cause-related marketing is not a catchall approach to solving the world’s problems, it provides the unique opportunity for nonprofit and for-profit organizations to work together for the advancement of a meaningful cause. As a donor, you can make each dollar an informed investment by continuing to ask questions about the causes you care about. 

Click here for Charities Review Council's list of strong, trustworthy, and accountable nonprofits.