Nonprofit Characteristics Foundations Seek Before Making Grants
Developing your mission statement is a critical first step, Herbert said. Clarify your mission, answer why, your purpose, discuss general goals, the what and the how, who is going to benefit, etc.
“No matter how clear the mission statement sounds in your head, talk it over with people to make sure it conveys what you want,” Herbert said. “All these words are very important. Some say your mission statement should be so simple and succinct that if fits on a business card, but I think it’s more about clarity than length. You want to have a clear mission statement that includes the purpose, service and beneficiaries.”
She provided the example of the United Way of York County, whose mission statement is "to inspire the people of York County to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors through financial generosity and volunteer commitment."
Board of directors
The Association of Fundraising Professionals defines a governing board of directors as people elected or appointed to establish policy, exercise fiscal responsibility and oversee management of an organization. So why do nonprofits have boards of directors?
- To ensure the organization operates within the framework of its mission;
- To earn and maintain public trust;
- To provide legal and fiscal oversight; and
- To maintain high standards of accountability.
Herbert then shared key board responsibilities from BoardSource:
- Maintain integrity and accountability — Nonprofits are accountable to the public at large, Herbert said. The board of directors is the public face of an organization and accountable for its performance and making sure it operates legally and with integrity, she said.
- Determine mission and purpose — “Boards help you grow and shape your mission and purpose, and guide you through the process as you mature. They make sure you’re not straying too far from the mission,” Herbert said. For example, say your mission focuses on unemployment and job training for adults, and your main program is computer training and you have a computer lab set up for the program. If a funder comes to you and wants to do computer training for children who are immigrants to help them learn English, it gets away from the core mission of helping adults. Your board should step in and say it’s probably not the right fit.
- Select and oversee chief executive — responsible for hiring, evaluating and if necessary firing the chief executive.
- Lead organizational planning.
- Ensure adequate resources.
- Strengthen programs or services.
- Assess own performance.
When putting a board together, be sure to enlist committed board members and establish responsible board policies. Committed board members possess the talent, time and treasure (or wisdom, work and wealth) dedicated to your organization.
- Talent/wisdom: It’s situational for every organization. You want experts in a certain program area, lawyers, accountants, PR people, etc.
- Time/work: People willing to put in time to help the organization be successful. Board members may need to do some of the work, especially for startups, and have to come to meetings.
- Treasure/wealth: Board members must be able to write checks and find others who can and will as well. “I don’t want you to think you have to find only wealthy people to be on your board,” Herbert said. Not everyone on your board has to be rich, she added, but the people on your board need to do a couple of things:
- Personally support the organization — “That doesn’t mean they have to give you huge amounts of money, but making an amount that’s significant to their means,” Herbert said. “From an external point of view or foundation point of view, if your core stakeholders (your board members) aren’t giving to your organization, why should anyone else?”
- Help bring in other resources — be willing to help fundraise.
- Establish board policies — conflict of interest policies, disclosure statements; must put loyalty to the organization above personal preferences.