This month for CenterView I thought I might discuss a few of the things we have been working on here at the Idaho Nonprofit Center. As a nonprofit organization ourselves, we are not immune to the challenges that nonprofits face across our entire statewide sector. I hope by sharing our internal work with you, we can better support your work and also learn together.
In this article I will discuss a new tool we developed to manage the day to day highs and lows of nonprofit life, one of our learnings from event coordination and how we can better manage our income/expense, and our new approach to our monthly featured nonprofit member - based on my trip to Sandpoint last month.
I’ll start with our new tool for managing the daily (sometimes hourly) highs and lows that come along with our work for the nonprofit sector. I think all of you can relate to how it feels to chalk up several wins: maybe you got a grant you were hoping for, a sponsor came in for your annual gala, and one of your clients had an incredible personal success. Then the feelings when the low comes in: you didn’t get another grant you hoped for, or a donor decided they didn’t want to support your organization or maybe you received some negative feedback from a client.
It’s those “lows” that we tend to remember and ruminate on all too often. We don’t take the time to celebrate the highs and the wins like we should. At the Idaho Nonprofit Center we experience this ebb and flow like everyone out there. Just as quickly as you feel full and happy with success the bubble bursts and you’re right back to feeling low again.
After one particular week where our “success balloon” was getting fairly inflated (and maybe even our ego a little bit too!) I had a moment where I knew that at some point something wasn’t going to go well. We might have a member not renew their membership, for example, and trust me we take that very personally. So we created our “We Rock Wall” in the breakroom. Our team stood around and listed off all of our successes. We agreed to add things as they came up and when we felt deflated or sad or low, that we would return to the Rock Wall and remember all the good things.
As you know, it only takes one not so good thing to make us feel sad, yet it can take ten different good things for us to feel like we’re on the right track. So whatever form it takes for you, no matter where you are in your organizational structure, I encourage you to build your Rock Wall, or whatever form it takes, and start charting and celebrating the wins. You’ll soon know how awesome and amazing your organization truly is.
Speaking of the bursting bubble, we’ve been tracking registration and cancellations for our large events over the past year. We’ve discovered that we lost several hundred dollars in unpaid and no-show registrations for our big events.
When we budget for our events we plan as close as we can for income (registrations and sponsorships) and expense (food, venue, printing, staff travel, speaker fees, etc). We base our registration pricing on what our costs will be.
What has happened to us, and could happen to you, is people register and don’t show up. We have a fairly tight refund policy for paid cancellations, but what we’ve learned this past year is that we are also losing money when people register, don’t pay, and don’t show. Our costs are always tied to the number of people who have registered for our events and when people don’t show, we are still beholden to the vendor for the costs of those registrants. We have a new policy on registrations and cancellations and I encourage you to review it on our website here.
No one likes to make these changes or decisions, but I encourage you to review your policies and think about what it is costing you when people register and don’t show for large events. We want to use our funds to support our sector every day and in every way. This policy will help us do so even more.
Every month we feature a different nonprofit from a different region in our state. I was fortunate to travel to north Idaho (my home!) and visit a few nonprofits in between meetings with employers to engage them in Idaho Gives this year.
On one such visit to the Panhandle Animal Shelter I was completely blown away by the changes Executive Director Mandy Evans has made in the years since I moved away. Fully expecting to find an animal I couldn’t live without I was stunned to see how few animals were housed there. Mandy explained that the shelter is using different metrics for success.
Success to them means keeping pets in their homes before they end up in the shelter. To that end they’ve developed a hotline for families, removed the element of shame in calling for help, and built community supports around helping families keep their pets. She’s also developed an online program that allows families who need to re-home their animals to seek a family out before the animal goes to the shelter. Again, the success measurement is how many animals are NOT going to the shelter versus how many they do serve.
This got me thinking that we can use our monthly nonprofit feature to highlight success stories, innovative thinking and collaborative efforts in all our communities. Learning from others is so important for all of us. Sharing our success with others feels good too. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming CenterView newsletter there’s a link to our form at the end of this month’s feature. This highlight is a member benefit.
I hope that the Idaho Nonprofit Center can continue to champion the great work of all of you in our state. While there are challenges ahead for all of us, we should celebrate our wins, learn from our own work, and share our knowledge with others.
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