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Stress-Buster Tips and Tools

Yesterday, December 7, at the New ED Network meeting attendees discussed tools and practices they use to de-stress, organize, prioritize, and juggle demands as they go through their busy days. Especially at this time of year, activities and year-end demands within organizations actively compete with community and family activities and responsibilities. Days can seem overwhelming at times.

Everyone left with several more tools in their tool bags -- suggestions that can help any time of year!

  • See the world around you a different way, every day: take a new route to and from work; turn right instead of left; note an interesting house or new business, watch kids playing in a school yard.
  • Use different modes of transportation: bus, bike, walk, drive, car pool. The variation in time and routes is another way to learn about the community and see the world anew.
  • Play calming background music, softly, in your office.
  • Shut the door for five minutes once or twice a day for a ‘peace of mind’ time-out.
  • Take a 15-minute walking break midway through the day; look for new things in the environment, changes in the weather, etc.
  • Start the day with exercise and mental focus activities: prayer, meditation, etc.
  • Hang a picture in your office that ‘takes you away’ to a favorite spot in the world. Gaze at it as a relaxation focus.
  • When needing to write or be creative, turn off overhead and other bright lights; focus on the computer or specific work area.
  • Post inspirational quotes and sayings around your office/desk; read them often.
  • Practice ‘brain dumping’ regularly to empty your brain of everything on your mental to-do list; reduce activities to exact steps.
  • Prioritize activities that can realistically be done in a period of time and stick to it. Don’t respond to requests not associated with those priorities. If ‘emergencies’ come into the day, re-prioritize within the current time period so expectations are achievable.
  • Set a specific time when you will read/review/respond to emails and phone calls. Don’t respond in ‘real time’ when it interrupts your priorities.
  • Determine the best time of day for you to do certain tasks: writing, planning, responding to emails/calls; holding meetings.
  • Proactively set meetings for your most productive times.
  • Don’t take work home; don’t bring home to work.
  • Lots of sticky notes and lists; reward completed activities by ‘checking them off the list.’
  • Review all email content before sending to be sure it ‘reads right’ for the receiver.
  • Clarify ‘how you work’ with those you work with: board, staff, volunteers, etc. so expectations and accountabilities are clear.
  • Define a ‘work plan’ for a specific period (ex. 3 months, 6 months) and ‘work the plan.’
  • Choose foods and beverages that keep your blood sugar and hunger levels consistent through the day. 

Hope you find a few ideas that will help you ease stress, stay focused, and do your best work. Let us know your tools and tips and we’ll add them to the list.


ONEplace Nonprofit Roundtables

Fundraising on the Internet

Do you solicit donations using an e-letter, email, or have a “Donate Now” button on your website or social media page? According to the IRS website, your organization is required to register with most state agencies before soliciting the state’s residents for contributions. Not all states require a solicitation license. However, those that do can often request additional information such as financial reports and other documents pertaining to fundraising activities.

Because online fundraising is rather new, individual state regulations concerning online fundraising are in a perpetual state of flux. The most up-to-date state regulations are available at the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) website. The NASCO has attempted to make the filing process easier by creating the Unified Registration Statement. The Unified Registration Statement (URS) is an alternative to filing all of the respective registration forms produced by each of the cooperating states. You can obtain a list of cooperating states and their requirements for filing by visiting The Unified Registration Statement website. The website walks you through the process of filling out the URS, lists each individual state’s requirements including where to send the registration packet for each state.

The article, New 990 Makes Nonprofit Fundraising Registration Unavoidable by Joanne Fritz has some good advice and helpful tips on how to start the process of registering.

The process of registering with different states can be time consuming, even with the URS. Some organizations choose to contract with third parties to take care of the filing. As always, if you have access to a nonprofit attorney, consult them before undertaking any on-line fundraising campaign. To find out more about on-line fundraising, visit the GuideStar article On-Line Fundraising: Some Do’s and Don’ts.


On-Line Fundraising: Some Do’s and Don’ts

Nonprofit Sector Grows in Michigan

The late November issues of MiBiz includes a supplement on the nonprofit sector in Michigan featuring comments by Kyle Caldwell, president of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, and Bobbe A. Luce, director of ONEplace@kpl. Their article on the growth in nonprofit employment (1.3% per year) during the recession highlights ways the sector is helping turn the economy around and build the capacities of nonprofit professionals and organizations to function more efficiently and effectively.

The supplement also includes articles on MRC Industries’ job programs for individuals with disabilities; increasing collaborations among nonprofits; the importance and power of philanthropy; young nonprofit professionals; the growth of ‘junior boards’ to prepare young adults for future board positions; and building organizations that inspire others to act. To read the articles, go to and look for articles by title.



Survey Shows Slight Increase in Giving to Nonprofits

A survey of 2,350 organizations was recently conducted by six leading nonprofit organizations (Foundation Center, GuideStar, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Blackbaud, the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics, and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University).

The survey indicates a slight increase in giving to nonprofits this year over last:

  • 36% saw donations increase in the first nine months of 2010, compared to only 23% in the same period in 2009
  • 37% saw a drop in giving; down from 51% last year
  • Foundation granting remains lower or flat and cautious
  • Drops were mainly the result of ‘fewer and smaller individual donations’

The survey also shows a large increase in demand for services:

  • 78% increase for human service organizations
  • 68% increase for nonprofits in general

Other key findings:

  • In four of eight subsectors, the share of organizations reporting an increase in contributions was about the same as the share reporting a decrease: arts, education, environment/animals, and human services
  • International organizations were the most likely to report an increase in contributions, reflecting donations made for disaster relief
  • In three subsectors — health, public-society benefit, and religion — a larger share of the organizations reported declines than reported increases
  • The larger an organization's annual expenditures, the more likely it reported an increase in charitable receipts in the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009
  • Most organizations were guardedly optimistic about 2011: 47% plan budget increases; 33% expect to maintain their current level of expenditures; 20% anticipate a lower budget for 2011

“For the first time in two years, there is cause for cautious optimism about the nonprofit sector in this economy,” according to GuideStar’s Ottenhoff.

How are donations and demands comparing at your nonprofit? What do you see and hear in the greater Kalamazoo area this year compared to a year and two years ago? Let us know.

Download the entire survey results PDF


Nonprofit survey

How Can We Get Our Board To Be More Engaged?

This question is one of the most often asked ones at ONEplace—by executive directors and board leaders, alike. The angst comes through various sub-questions such as: How can we get our Board members to show up to meetings? Show up prepared? Donate to the Annual Campaign? Help raise funds? Take leadership roles? These and other engagement issues…or lack of engagement issues…affect the functioning and outcomes of many organizations.

A new article by Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, arrived via GuideStar that speaks directly to one of the underlying causes of disengagement: board members often don’t know ‘what your organization is trying to accomplish and what their role is in making that happen.’

“Engagement is inspiring passion in someone so they will want to take action.”
(J. Asker, A. Smith in The Dragonfly Effect)

To inspire passion and, therefore, action: clearly define annual goals for the organization and expectations for board members’ actions toward those goals. A plan gives board members something to get their hands around and strive for.

Perry offers a four-part plan with specific, quantifiable sub-steps:

  1. Be sure your board members know what you are aiming to accomplish this year.
  2. Be sure they know what the impact will be if you can make your plan happen.
  3. Be sure every board member knows what his or her job is to make the plan happen.
  4. Keep in close touch with your board members each week or month, letting them know of your success.

Read Gail Perry’s entire article and try these strategies to get your board engaged and fired-up!


Keeping Your Board Engaged for Your Cause

Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report

Social networking questions and frustrations come into ONEplace often. “Should we be on Facebook?” or “Is social media really worth all the time and effort?” are a couple of the questions we hear. An April, 2010 report by NTen, Common Knowledge, and the Port titled The 2010 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report offers some insight.

The report includes benchmarks for nonprofits to learn how others in the sector are using commercial social network tools such as Facebook or Twitter, or house social networks, and the value they attach to each. Some of the percentages may surprise you.

  • 90% Answered yes to having a commercial social network
  • 92% Said the purpose of their commercial social network community is marketing
  • 60% Have not used commercial social networks to fundraise

Facebook and Twitter are the preferred social network sites, each witnessing large growth in users and community sizes (Facebook 16%, Twitter 38%). Linked In and You Tube have remained steady. My Space is declining in users and community sizes. (45%)

  • 40% Received donations from Facebook
  • 78% Of these organizations raised $1,000 or less in the last 12 months
  • Only 3.5% of the 40% fell into the successful fundraiser category by raising $10,000 or more in the last 12 months

Due to the economy and the large upfront investment for software and build-out required to start a house network, nonprofits are taking a serious look at ROI concerning for this form of social networking.

  • 22% Reported operating one or more house networks in 2010 (28% decrease from 2009)
  • 75% Valued their house networks
  • 74% Reported that they are very or somewhat satisfied with their investment
  • 57% Used their house social network primarily for marketing

Although many nonprofits see social media as a free way to market their organizations, is it really ‘free.’ Time is money and quality takes time.

  • Nonprofits that committed two or more full-time employees to the management of their commercial social networking communities experienced the highest level of satisfaction.
  • 50% Indicated they will increase staffing related to commercial social networks in the coming 12 months
  • 67% Allocated less than half of a full-time employee’s time to commercial social networks
  • 57% Allocated less than half of a full-time employee’s time to house social networks

For more information on this report, visit Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, Allison Fine’s Blog, or The Networked Nonprofit by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter.


Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report

The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula

Does advertising and marketing your nonprofit seem too daunting a task? We have a book for that! The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula by Tom Feltenstein gives a common sense view on how to incorporate marketing tactics at the community level. The book is written for a For-Profit audience but is easily relatable for Non-Profit organizations. Tom Feltenstein walks the reader through:

  • • The marketing process beginning with actionable research strategies
  • • How to use different media vehicles
  • • Resources you can use along the way.

You will also take some side trips and learn about legal pitfalls and ways to track your progress. Companies like Habitat for Humanity have used The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula with great success. This book, with its humor and relatable stories, is an easy read for those not intimately familiar with marketing terminology. In my opinion, this book’s main value lies in the easy, common sense ideas it suggests that, when put together, add up to a well rounded community marketing plan.


The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula: a shortcut to extraordinary profits using neighborhood marketing

Foundation Center

The Foundation Center has recently enhanced their website with some great new features. And, although you will still need to visit the Kalamazoo Public Library to search the Foundation Directory for grants, the website offers many other helpful resources you can access from your home or office.

When you first enter the Foundation Center’s website, the amount of information can seem overwhelming. The best place to start is in the mustard yellow tool guide located near the top of the page. The headings listed in the tool guide make navigating through the website as easy as a drop down with a click. Much of the information can be found in multiple areas.

  • Get Started heading is a general overview of what the website has to offer as far as resources and tools.
    • Some are fee based, but most are free
    • Offers information pertaining to specific organizational topics
    • Most helpful are the Learn About and Training Courses
      • Classroom trainings are only offered in select cities, I recommend going directly to the free training videos and webinar
  • Find Funders heading offers a link to the Foundation Center Directory as well as other helpful tools for grant writing
    • The Foundation Center is accessible for a fee/ save money by using the computers in ONEplace at no cost
    • Related Tools and Check Statistics
      • RFP templates and prospect worksheets
  • Gain Knowledge. This section is the equivalent of having a nonprofit library at your fingertips.
    • A plethora of articles about the economic crisis, global issues, best practices, research reports, and much more
    • Glass Pockets and Pub Hub are new programs of the Foundation Center
    • FREE Philanthropy News Digest eNewsletter subscription for up-to-date information
  • View Events header is useful for accessing archived videos, audio, transcripts, and webinars at no cost
    • A lot of what is found in this section can also be found under other headings. Save time by checking the date of the event to prevent duplication

The Foundation Center website can be found at What I found most valuable were the free webinars, videos, and audio recordings; especially the Introduction to Fundraising Planning Online Training Course. Write back and let me know what you found to be most valuable and share your thoughts with other who could benefit from the Foundation Center website.


Foundation Center

Nonprofit Voting and Elections

Now that the primaries are behind us and the midterm elections loom large, nonprofits often wonder if—or how—to engage with their constituents around election issues and voting. Staying within legal parameters set forth by the IRS and Michigan state government is key to protecting your 501c3 tax-exempt status. The Nonprofit Voting & Elections website has a wealth of information, including a guide to engagement.

“501(c)(3) nonprofits can play an important role in helping their communities vote and participate in the democratic process. There is one basic rule: 501(c)(3)s may not support or oppose any candidate for public office. This means 501(c)(3)s may not endorse candidates, rate candidates, contribute to candidates, or provide special resources to one candidate that are not offered to everyone in the race.”

“There are many nonpartisan activities that a 501(c)(3) can legally do to help their communities participate and vote. 501(c)(3)s may educate voters or candidates on the issues, provide opportunities for voters to hear the candidates’ positions, encourage citizens to register to vote, help new voters navigate the voting process and get people to go to the polls on Election Day.”

“The guide discusses many possible activities and ways that nonprofits can make sure they remain nonpartisan.”

The guide is not a guide about lobbying. It is about voting and elections. Lobbying rules differ from rules about voting and elections. Nonprofits have limits on how much lobbying they can do. There are no similar limits on voter and election activity. A nonprofit can spend as much as it wants on voter education and encouraging people to vote so long as it remains “nonpartisan” and does not support or oppose a candidate for elective office.”

You may also want to review the facts sheet called ‘Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations’ put out by the IRS.

As you will see, the answer is HOW, not IF your nonprofit can legally engage in the voting and education on issues process in the months between now and November.

Bobbe A. Luce, director of ONEplace@kpl


Nonprofit Voting & Elections

ONEplace: ONEyear!

At the meeting of the Kalamazoo Public Library Board of Trustees on July 26, I presented a summary of the results received through our ONEplace ONEyear Survey, conducted in early March, 2010. It is a snapshot of the start-up and growth of Kalamazoo County’s new nonprofit management support organization (MSO) from the Grand Opening in March, 2009, through one full year in operation. While we continue to grow and improve programs and services, and increase service contacts, capturing the impact of the first year has proven valuable and informative.

Executive Summary of ONEplace ONEyear Survey

ONEplace is a management support organization, operated by the Kalamazoo Public Library and funded by the Irving S. Gilmore and Kalamazoo Community Foundations, that focuses on building personnel (staff and volunteers) skills and organizational capacities of nonprofits in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

First Year Activity Levels

In its first year of operation, ONEplace was operated by one full-time and two 10/hr/wk staff (approx 9 mos/each pt position). Over 200 requests per month (2400/yr) for technical assistance from nonprofit staff, board members, volunteers, or people seeking to start a nonprofit were addressed in-person, by phone, or email---surpassing its goal of 75/mo during the first year. Over 100 workshops and webinars were provided, with more than 1,400 people attending. Services and programs far outpaced original expectations.

As the first anniversary approached we took the opportunity to systematically gather data to better assess ONEplace’s efforts and local nonprofit needs for future planning.

Working with an evaluator from the WMU Evaluations Center, the ONEplace ONEyear Survey was sent to 1,100 people to gather feedback on the services ONEplace offers. In total, 229 people completed the short survey, for a response rate of 20.8 percent. Most respondents were from organizations more than 16 years old. They represented a wide range of roles, with the most common respondents holding paid staff positions.


Most Frequently Used Services: ONEplace’s website, workshops, and one-on-one, in-person technical assistance.

Least Frequently Used Services: webinars and ONEplace’s nonprofit collection.

Overall Rating: Satisfaction with ONEplace’s services, programs, resources, and staff was very high; the value to the community was repeatedly cited in question responses and comments.

Regardless of respondent’s personal participation in ONEplace offerings, their faith in its role in Kalamazoo was strong. Many of the comments read similarly to this one: “Really, I cannot think of anything [to improve]. This is such a wonderful resource for our community. I hope there is a plan to duplicate the model and spread it across the country. ONEplace is a true ally of the nonprofit. Thank you!”

Suggestions for the Future:

  • Provide a more complete schedule further ahead of time for adequate planning
  • Archive materials from webinars and workshops for digital access
  • Respondents asked for specific additional training topics
  • Advanced training for mature organizations
  • Professional development or orientation for board members
  • Offer services outside of normal business hours

The results mirrored the perceptions of ONEplace staff from feedback throughout the year. Even prior to this survey, advanced training, board development, enhanced calendar, and greater focus on the collection were folded into the plans for year two. Archiving presenter materials is currently done in hardcopy and under consideration for web access. Some possible actions, such as expanding service hours, are unlikely given the limited staffing of ONEplace. Thus, the focus will be on utilizing technology to more efficiently address client needs for access to information whenever they need it.

Summary of Statistics:

  • Respondents included: paid staff (60.7%); volunteers (10.5%); board members (17%); consultants (8.3%); unaffiliated community members (3.5%)
  • Organizational age: less than a year (2.6%); 1-5 yrs (17.5%); 6-10 yrs (11.8%); 11-15 yrs (6.1%); more than 16 yrs (58.5%)
  • One-on-one assistance (in person): 1-5 times (35.7%); 6 or more (1%); never (63.3%)
  • One-on-one assistance (phone/email): 1-5 times (33.2%); 6 or more (2.9%); never (61.1%)
  • Role-specific network attendance: 1-5 times (27.3%); 6 or more (6.2%); never (63.6%)
  • Workshop attendance: 1-5 times (66.2%); 6 or more (10.3%); never (23.5%)
  • Webinar attendance: 1-5 (32.2%); never (64.4%)
  • Website visits: 1-5 times (48.8%); 6 or more (40.8%); never (10.3%)
  • Frequency of checking out a book from the collection: 1- 10 times (30%); never (66.7%)
  • Referred colleagues to ONEplace: 1-5 (51.2%); 6 or more (27.4%); none (19.1%)
  • Increase in professional skills because of participation in ONEplace programs/services: on a scale of 1-10 (10 high) 70% rated their skill increase at 5 or greater; 2 or greater (84.5%); none (15.5% [may not have participated])
  • Increase in organizational capacity: on a scale of 1-10 (10 high) 57.5% rated their capacity increase at 5 or greater; 2 or greater (78%); none (22% [may not have participated])

A Few Comments and Specific Requests to the Question “What One Thing Would Make ONEplace More Useful to You?:

  • I can’t think of a thing to change
  • I just need to find time to pursue your many resources
  • Don’t forget ‘all volunteer’ organizations
  • More varied workshop times
  • Archive workshop materials online
  • Send out regular emails of upcoming events
  • I think it’s fantastic and moving in the right direction. It has been very useful.
  • Do MORE of what you are doing!
  • Offer more grant seeking labs
  • Start a blog
  • More in-depth workshops; skill building tools
  • Education about how to network with other organizations

If you have questions or comments about this information or ONEplace, in general, please contact us.

Bobbe A. Luce, director of ONEplace@kpl


ONEplace @ KPL

Your Tax-Exempt Status May Be in Jeopardy Very Soon: Take Action Now!

May 15 is a very important date, especially for new or small tax-exempt nonprofits that haven’t been filing a 990 annually. Prior to the Pension Protection Act of 2006, nonprofits with budgets under $25,000 were exempt from filing a 990, but no more.

In separate articles over the past week, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the New York Times, and Guidestar covered this issue and its potential impact on the nonprofit sector very soon.

“As many as one-fourth of all nonprofits could lose tax-exemption” by failing to file an annual 990 since the filing became mandatory for all tax-exempt nonprofits in 2006,” according to an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on April 22, 2010. GuideStar estimates that 350,000 to 400,000 nonprofits are in danger of losing their exemptions.

“The IRS will begin revoking exemptions on May 16, 2010, but will wait until 2011 to send revocation notices. The IRS is essentially giving delinquent nonprofits a six-month grace period in which to file their annual returns,” Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of GuideStar explained. “We hope the organizations in danger of losing their exemptions will take advantage of this opportunity. Ultimately, the revocation process will benefit the nonprofit sector by weeding out defunct organizations and nonprofits that are not meeting their reporting responsibilities. In the short run, however, it will cause hardship for some organizations.”

Grantors and suppliers will need to confirm, annually, that all the charities they give money or in-kind products or services to are currently eligible to receive them. Donors will, also annually, need to confirm eligibility of organizations in order to secure a tax-exemption for their gifts.

Not ‘Off the Hook’

Why the requirement for every charity to file a 990 annually? “Congress is not going to let the IRS off the hook for its job of regulating the [nonprofit] sector and ensuring that the sector is not only equipped to do the deeds that it sets out to do but also that the federal tax subsidy is used correctly” according to Sarah Hall Ingram, top nonprofit regulator for the IRS. (Chronicle)

Ms. Ingram said she views good governance practices “as being all about risk management,” both for charities and for the IRS.

So, the time to check your filing status is now! If your organization hasn’t been submitting 990s since 2006 because you didn’t think you needed to, go to the IRS website for all the information, instructions, and forms you will need to assure you file before May 15, 2010.



Micro-Volunteering Online

At ONEplace we're all about the value of volunteering...helping nonprofits connect with volunteers, and vice versa.  However, as we all know, one of the challenges of relying on the talent and commitment of volunteers is that they don't always have as much time as we'd like, to help nonprofit organizations turn their visions into reality.

That is precisely the issue that led to the creation of The Extraordinaries, a web-based platform for micro-volunteering that launched about a year ago.  According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, a periodical we receive at ONEplace, "[t]he goal is to harness thousands of currently untapped hours by making volunteering fast, convenient, and bite-sized.  While waiting for a bus or cooling your heels at the dentist's office, you could be using your smart phone to tag photos for the Smithsoinian, send a study tip to an at-risk student, or map your local parks. 'We want volunteering to be as fun and ubiquitous as playing a game,' explains Sundeep Ahuja, cofounder and president of the San Francisco-based business."

As soon as I read about The Extraordinaries, I went to the site, signed up, searched some of the more popular projects, and was soon busy tagging photographic images for the Library of Congress.  And it did feel like I was playing a game, but I knew I was doing much more.  I was really making a difference.  I look forward to digging a little deeper into the site and searching for other projects, which are listed by categories such as climate, animals or education.

And of course, there is a social media angle to this effort as well.  Participants can share their Extraordinaries activities with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and the like.  This means that the brief volunteer contribution by one person could easily multiply, inspiring more to do the same.  And all it takes is a few minutes. Ingenius! 


The Extraordinaries

Happy New Year - Census 2010

The start of a new decade means it's time to prepare for another Census questionnaire.  And we at ONEplace want to make sure that nonprofit organizations do everything they can to ensure that the people they serve are counted in 2010.  Why?  Because ten years ago, in the 2000 Census, it is estimated that Michigan was undercounted by about 70,000 people, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars in federal funding.

According to Sam Singh, census consultant for the Michigan Nonprofit Association, "Census data is used to determine political representation; where to build new roads, schools, and businesses; where services for the elderly and the homeless are necessary; and where job and job programs are needed."  And when people are missed in the total count, often the services that have been created to help those very people end up suffering.

"The nonprofit community is uniquely positioned to dramatically strengthen and improve this year's census participation because you often directly serve these hard-to-count populations.  Michigan's historically undercounted residents - immigrants, people of color, low-income families, and those who are highly mobile and live in complex households" are the people who, every day, walk in and out of the door of nonprofits.  What better way to directly impact the funding those agencies receive than to take advantage of every opportunity to talk with services recipients about the Census, explain the benefits of a complete count, and actively promote their participation. 

To help nonprofits reach their constituents, the Nonprofits Count! in Michigan campaign has an online Census Toolkit.  Available in English and Spanish, the materials in this toolkit include, among other things, more details about the Census questionnaire, which is now a simple 10-question survey; as well as more information about the confidentiality of Census responses. 

Please take a minute to look at these materials and make use of as many of them as possible at your site.  The end result will benefit not only your organization but our entire community and the state of Michigan.


2010 Census: Nonprofits Count