Monday, June 22, 2015

Investing in the Infrastructure of Under-Resourced Nonprofits

Nonprofit Strengthening Projects
An innovative program of Charities Review Council's Grantmaker Services, where Council staff partner with grantmakers to accomplish their strategic interests for increasing the capacity of the organizations they fund.

In 2014, Charities Review Council successfully completed three Nonprofit Strengthening Projects, created in partnership with local funders: Youthprise, Greater Twin Cities United Way and Northside Achievement Zone, while also launching a new 2014-2015 project for St. Cloud area nonprofits with the Otto Bremer Foundation. The goal for each of these projects is to strengthen the capacity of the organizations participating, their relationships with each other, and with the funder who supports them.

Each project is carefully designed with the participants' needs in mind. Projects include a Strengthening Workshop Series, access to the Accountability Wizard® at no cost, and individual consulting sessions. By using Charities Review Council’s 25 Accountability Standards® and the Accountability Wizard® as common ground, organizations are able to assess and improve their current practices, policies and procedures with support along the way.

  1. Community Engagement: Goals are created in partnership with the supporting funder. Each project engages local partners and community-based consultants to provide a meaningful and relevant experience for each project participant. 
  2. Peer Learning Communities: We strive to create culturally affirming programming, which reinforces our ability to learn from one another, while building a stronger sense of community.
  3. Customized Strengthening Workshops: Each workshop is designed with input from project participants and facilitated by subject-matter experts. These workshops utilize adult learning techniques such as honoring time and knowledge, leveraging motivation, and presenting practical tools/learnings that can be used right away. 
  4. Individual Consulting Sessions: Council staff (or in some cases a Council Consultant) meet organizations where they are, providing non-judgmental support in order to help them achieve commonly agreed upon standards of accountability. 
  5. Built-in Assessment & Incentives: Traditional capacity building services often lack proper incentive and assessment. These projects provide both by using pre and post assessments to identify needs and enabling organizations to demonstrate their strength to a wider audience by earning the Meets Standards® seal, a visual maker of nonprofit strength recognized by donors, funders, and community members.
We invited more than 100 organizations to participate in our Strengthening Projects; 88 registered to participate. In 2014, we hosted 10 Strengthening Workshops, facilitated by subject-matter experts from MAP for Nonprofits, Nonprofits Assistance Fund, and several community-based consultants.

“The Strengthening Workshops gave me real tools that I can apply at work right away. I enjoyed the informal, interactive, yet resourceful atmosphere and presentation style.”

54 organizations took advantage of a free, two-hour consulting session with a Council Staff member or Consultant.

"My consultant helped me to feel more confident.. She reinforced the fact that I did not have to have things perfect now, rather it was a process to achieve some of the standards over time."

Nonprofit Strengthening Projects demonstrate the value of investing in the administration and infrastructure of historically under-resourced nonprofits, with each component designed to be a capacity building opportunity for nonprofit professionals at all levels of the organization. “I think it’s great these workshops are open to more than just the Executive Director. I learned a ton as a young, relatively new, nonprofit professional.” On average, 97% of project participants indicate that the Nonprofit Strengthening Projects are valuable. We look forward to continuing these projects in 2015 and beyond.

Interested in learning more about each Nonprofit Strengthening Project? Click here for more information.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Big Welcome to Our New Summer Interns!

Charities Review Council is excited to welcome our three new summer interns, Anna Bartz, Jay Corliss, and Siri Ericson. After a grueling orientation (filled with free doughnuts and personalized office notebooks), we asked them those 'fall asleep at night,' thought provoking questions like,  'how have you seen nonprofits have an effect on our community,' and more seriously, if you could listen to one CD for the rest of your life, what CD would it be.' These interns have covered it all. Read on to see what they had to say! 

Anna Bartz

Anna, our Engagement and Marketing intern, is a rising senior at St. Olaf College with a double major in Economics and Psychology. She plays collegiate women's hockey for St. Olaf and is a member of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Anna is excited to engage and work with the community throughout the summer while interning at Charities Review Council. Besides her work here, Anna is also currently a research assistant for the Institute of Research and Evaluation at St. Olaf College. Anna has a passion for traveling, and just recently spent her J-term in Italy and Germany studying religion and history. 

 Here's what Anna had to say to our tough questions.

1. What is your favorite Accountability Standard®?

My favorite Accountability Standard® is Impact on the Community within the Public Disclosure section. It is crucial that nonprofits stay on track with program goals and ensure they are ultimately benefiting the community with their work.

2. How have you seen nonprofits have an effect on our community?

Nonprofits positively impact our community by giving individuals an opportunity to personally take part in the solution, rather than rely on external actions to make a change. I think it is important that all community members take a personal responsibility in helping to engage in and solve local matters. Nonprofit organizations help with this by facilitating important conversations and giving community members appropriate outlets or causes to direct their efforts towards.

3. When you’re not connecting with nonprofits through the work that you do at Charities Review Council, what do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy playing hockey, reading, solving Sudoku puzzles, taking my Jack Russell Terrier, Herbie, for walks around the Minneapolis lakes, going to Zumba classes, and spending time with friends and family.

4. If you could eat any food for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

My dad’s air‐popped popcorn! I have tried many times to duplicate his recipe, but I have never come close to his kerneled masterpiece.

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

I am excited to learn more about the nonprofit sector, and to help the enthusiastic Charities Review Council team engage with the community.

Jay Corliss

Jay, our Events and Communications intern, is originally from Wisconsin, and moved to the Twin Cities to pursue a career in the music industry. She recently graduated with a degree in Music Business from McNally Smith College of Music. Throughout the last few years Jay has worked for many music-related businesses in Minneapolis, Austin TX and Brooklyn NY. After attending the SXSW Music Festival this year, Jay realized that she wanted to use music as a vehicle to promote good causes. Jay hopes to someday work for an arts-related nonprofit, and is excited to be at Charities Review Council to learn more about event planning and how organizations can grow to meet the Accountability Standards®.

See how Jay answered our questions below.

1. What is your favorite Accountability Standard®?

My favorite Accountability Standard® is the Impact on Community Standard. I think it’s really important that organizations aim to not only serve the community but become an effective part of it.

2. How have you seen nonprofits have an effect on our community?

When I worked with Rock the Cause I was able to interact with many nonprofits at different benefit concerts. I was able to see how organizations utilized these opportunities to promote their mission and turn audience members into donors and volunteers who were passionate about helping better the community.

3. When you're not helping plan events at Charities Review Council, what do you like to do for fun?

I spend my time working with various people and organizations in the local music scene. Most nights I can be found selling merch, volunteering, or checking out new doughnut shops.

4.  If you could listen to 1 CD for the rest of your life, what CD would it be?

I could listen to Death to The Pixies forever. If I could meet Kim Deal my life would be complete.

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

I'm most excited to meet everyone and learn more about the work Charities Review Council does.

Siri Ericson

Siri, our Nonprofit Services intern, will be a junior next fall at St. Olaf College. She is majoring in Political Science, and Sociology & Anthropology. At school, Siri has an assortment of jobs including working in the economics department, science library, post office, and dining hall. Siri is passionate about ending sexual violence and creating a safe campus environment, and strives to do so as a Sexual Assault Resource Network Advocate. Outside of school, Siri volunteers regularly with the Northfield community and has taken  mission trips to Tanzania and Guatemala.  

Last, but not least, let's see how Siri answered.

1. What is your favorite Accountability Standard®?

My favorite Accountability Standard® is the Governance Standard of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I believe in the value of creating nonprofit organizations that are responsive to the needs of the community and representative of the population they are designed to support. This is my favorite standard because it calls for organizations to be directly involved in the communities they serve and to be open-minded to a diversity of new perspectives. Through the collection of information related to individual demographics, internal and external components of the organization, as well as the organization’s general goals, setbacks, and achievements, this Standard is significant because it promotes the  establishment of nonprofit organizations that are built on the foundation of trust and public support.

2. How have you seen nonprofits have an effect on our community?

I value living in the Twin Cities because it is a concentrated area with a variety of social justice initiatives and nonprofit organizations working to meet the needs of the community. I am currently employed at the nonprofit organization, Open Arms of Minnesota, where I see the Accountability Standards® coming to life through staff, donors, volunteers, and clients working together to provide meals to individuals with life-threatening illnesses. In light of the immense social and economic needs within communities and the challenges nonprofit organizations face, I believe it is important to reflect critically on the failures and successes of aid and to strive towards the establishment of organizations that promote services in legitimate, respectful, and effective ways.

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 love to run, read, and spend time with friends. I am a Political Science and Sociology & Anthropology major at St. Olaf College and I volunteer in the Sexual Assault Resource Network on campus.

4. If you could be a superhero, who would you be? And why?

If I could be any superhero, I would be Elastigirl from the movie, The Incredibles. Elastigirl is a smart woman with a secret identity and the superhuman power of great flexibility. She can stretch to be the length of skyscrapers and transform her body into the shape of boats and parachutes in times of need. I would like to be the superhero, Elastigirl, because she fights bad guys alongside her family with a stubborn persistence and unconventional strength.

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

I am excited to be part of Charities Review Council and learn more about the factors that make nonprofit organizations accountable, transparent, and just. I am passionate about issues of social justice and I believe that non-profit organizations are meaningful agents of social change. I look forward to becoming more knowledgeable about the Accountability Standards® and I hope to develop my writing and editing skills through this internship.

Join us in welcoming Anna, Jay, and Siri to Charities Review Council by sending them an email. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Grow the Good: A Charities Review Council 'First!'

It's hard to believe that with over 69 years of history, hundreds of thousands of donors and nonprofits served, Charities Review Council had never before hosted a fundraising event. Well, on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, dedicated donors, nonprofit leaders, and Council friends joined together to support Charities Review Council's first-ever fundraising event, Grow the Good.

Grow the Good was a short and lively breakfast featuring both a donor and a nonprofit perspective on the value of partnership with Charities Review Council. To fulfill our mission of mobilizing informed donors and accountable nonprofits for the greater good, Charities Review Council works with donors and nonprofits to create spaces, places and tools to foster stronger, more meaningful donor-nonprofit relationships.

Grow the Good featured two speakers: Nausheena Hussain, Deputy Director at CAIR-Minnesota (CAIR-MN) and Julie Cohen, Director of Communications & Engagement at Pollen Midwest, who shared how partnership with Charities Review Council helped them build stronger donor-nonprofit relationships at their organizations and with the organizations they support.

We're Nonprofit Partners. 
It's possible you know us by our List of Trustworthy Organizations, or maybe you've seen the Meets Standards® Seal on a nonprofit brochure. There's more to our nonprofit partnerships than just obtaining the seal, or being included on our list, although those perks aren't bad...

As nonprofit partners, we meet organizations where they are. With a combination of cloud-based technical assistance, non-judgmental support, and robust resources, we provide a risk-free learning environment where organizations can strengthen their internal policies, practices, and procedures in order to align with widely-accepted standards of nonprofit accountability.

At Grow the Good, Nausheena shared her experience with our online capacity building tool, the Accountability Wizard®, and the positive impact it had on her organization. CAIR-MN needed support in completing the Governance Accountability Standards®, which help nonprofits build and maintain strong governance structures, good management practices and important policies. Nausheen sheepishly shared, "we noticed that our policies needed work, as in, we didn't have some of them."

That's where we come in! Charities Review Council provides sample policies and guidance so that nonprofit professionals, like Nausheena, don't have to start from scratch or re-create the wheel. "Charities Review Council was like nonprofit therapy, they helped us help ourselves," shared Nausheena.

We're Donor Partners. 
Remember, our mission is two-fold. We also support donors by partnering to ensure every precious dollar they give goes to a strong and trustworthy organization. We provide resources and education so donors can feel confident in making informed giving choices.

Julie shared how Charities Review Council resources, information and opportunities for giving helped her build stronger relationships with the organizations she supports. More specifically, with YouthLink, a Charities Review Council Meets Standards® organization, that works with homeless youth, ages 16-23.

Julie was first introduced to Youthlink at the Council's Annual Forum 2014: Disruptive Philanthropy. YouthLink was one of five nonprofits that participated in the Council's first-ever Live-Giving Party, where organizations pitched their big ideas in hopes that attendees would show their support by donating on the spot, that same day! Julie chose YouthLink.

A few months later, Julie had the opportunity to expand on her partnership with YouthLink when she received an award that included a financial gift from her employer. When considering where to direct it, she said,

"It can feel overwhelming knowing there are so many worthy causes out there to give to." 

Julie thought back to the relationship she had formed with YouthLink and knew where she would award her gift. Julie's story reiterates the importance of continually building new and authentic relationships with donors.

After hearing from both Nausheena and Julie, we asked attendees to stand with us in our efforts to build strong, accountable nonprofits, and engaged, informed donors, and they did! We raised more than $8,000 to help grow Council programs, which strengthen our philanthropic community as a whole.

You can help grow greater good in partnership with Charities Review Council too. Click here to financially support programs that strengthen both donors and nonprofits.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Youthprise and Charities Review Council's Nonprofit Strengthening Project

Nonprofit Strengthening Projects are an innovative partnership enhancing a funder’s ability to meet its strategic interests and goals by increasing the capacity of the organizations it supports. Using Charities Review Council’s 25 Accountability Standards® and online capacity building tool the Accountability Wizard®,organizations are able to assess and improve their current practices, policies, and procedures. Nonprofit Strengthening Projects demonstrate the value of investing in the administration and infrastructure of historically under-resourced nonprofits. This project strengthened the capacity of Youthprise grantees, their relationships with each other, and with the supporting funder, Youthprise, as Rudy shares with us below. 


Youthprise and Charities Review Council’s Strengthening Project

by Rudy Guglielmo Jr., Program Officer at Youthprise

I am pleased to share the results of our Nonprofit 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®.

Pictured: Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), Inc.
Building on the success of the 2012 project, the 2014 Nonprofit 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.

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.