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Posts Tagged ‘church’

As I write this entry, our family is preparing to witness our son participate in a horse-riding competition.  For most parents, attending competitions is an honored ritual – supporting our children as they prepare to succeed, compete with honor, and grow to become the productive citizens we pray they will be.  But this is not just an ordinary contest – the contestants have overcome not just learning how to ride, but how to perform many everyday tasks we take for granted.

Now I can’t speak for every competitor because I don’t know them personally, but because this competition is geared toward those with special needs, I can only imagine what they may have had to overcome.  As for our son, he continues to recover from autism slowly but surely.  We thank God for the resources and people He has brought into our life to assist him (and his proud mom and dad!).

I wanted to take this opportunity to “swell my chest” for my son AND daughter as they continue to mature in this thing called LIFE.  For those with children (biological, step, grand and otherwise), in the midst of serving your communities, congregants and constituents, show love to your children in any way you can (especially pray for them) – we don’t have them for long!

Be strong and be blessed!

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When it comes to nonprofits and their tax-exempt status, faith-based organizations (FBOs) must be especially careful when they decide to go beyond “having church” to providing services that benefit the community overall.  For example, when a FBO decides to go from developing Sunday School curriculum for its own use to developing and selling biblical children’s stories to be used by the general public…or when a FBO expands its transitional housing efforts from housing the homeless in their multi-purpose building to providing shelter in homes the FBO has purchased…or when a FBO intends to purchase land not just for a new church building but for other uses such as senior housing and small-shop retail…and the list can go on.

Even though the examples given above can be deemed as extensions of the FBOs overall mission, these “extensions” may be viewed by the Internal Revenue Service differently.  In fact, there are many recent examples of FBOs and their leaders being investigated by the federal government questioning their tax-exempt status.  Ultimately, these investigations were dropped, but the fact remains that as budgets tighten at the federal and state levels, government bodies will continue to aggressively seek additional sources of revenue and FBOs will continue to be potential targets as the line blurs between their charitable and auxiliary activities.

One way to address this possibility is for FBOs to establish independent organizations that can facilitate these activities without jeopardizing the FBOs tax-exempt status.  For example, using the “bible children’s stories” example from above, I would recommend that the FBO create a separate entity (e.g., a publishing company) that would develop, market and sell the products so that the tax-exempt status of the FBO would not be put into question – especially when the income of the publishing company begins to increase substantially.  In addition, if the FBO intends to secure grants for various charitable activities that will benefit the community as a whole, many philanthropic organizations cannot award grants directly to FBOs, but can make awards to non-profit organizations that facilitate these charitable activities.

The examples given above are merely for illustration and not intended to be definitive.  Case law is constantly evolving in this area, so please consult with a local attorney or CPA who can help you wade through these waters.  If you have questions or comments that would help broaden this discussion, please respond.

Be strong and be blessed!

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With all of the detailed steps that have been discussed regarding operating and financing your nonprofit organization, we don’t want to dismiss the importance of starting up properly.  Just as “blocking and tackling” is to football, building a firm foundation in starting your organization will allow you to proceed more confidently in meeting the needs of your community.

Over the next few weeks we’ll discuss various topics pertaining to your organization’s start-up activities, including:

  • Obtaining a tax-exempt status designation
  • Becoming an “official” organization
  • Resources that can assist you
  • What faith-based organizations should consider

If there are other topics you want us to cover or have other questions, feel free to send me your comments or contact me.

Be strong and be blessed!

Postscript: Join me in praying for those individuals and families who were and continue to be affected by the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

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You have spent countless hours creating your organization’s programming to meet a need in your community.  You’ve developed key partnerships and your board is top-shelf.  Now you’re ready to approach funders for support – but wait (there’s more :))!  How will you know if what you’ve spent time developing will be successful?  In order to determine whether investments of time, money and energy were worth it, an evaluation of the program should be planned and performed.

It has been said that “(a) true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.”[1]  Taking this thought a step further, there should be an objective way to account for these “benefits” so that the value (or “worth”) can be better determined.

Program evaluation is an important step in a program’s life cycle and it must be deliberately planned on the front end of the planning process.  Most, of not all, funders want to know how you propose to measure success.  Key questions that should be asked when determining how to evaluate your program include the following:

  • What are the desired outcomes of this program? What are the goals? What are we trying to accomplish within the next month/quarter/year(s)?
  • How will we get there? What activities will enable us to reach our outcomes? 
  • What will indicate to us that we are making progress toward the desired outcomes?

Nevertheless, even if you are already implementing your program, for evaluation purposes it is essential to identify and document the program outcomes, activities, and indicators that will be evaluated.  Think of the desired outcomes as what you ultimately want the program to accomplish, the activities as what you will do to get there, and the indicators as the gauge of whether, and to what degree, you are making progress. [2]

Outcomes should be consistent with what could reasonably be accomplished and not “pie in the sky.”  This doesn’t mean you won’t strive for more, but in terms of carrying out an evaluation the more clearly defined and measurable the outcome, the better.  For example, your outcome may be to reduce the high school drop-out rate among Hispanic students or to increase the number of African-American girls majoring in engineering.

The activities are the interventions that your program will provide in order to bring about the intended outcomes.  In general, program activities can be defined as any type of direct service or information that is provided to participants.  Continuing with the above example targeting African-American girls, you may provide direct tutoring services and mentoring opportunities to encourage more interest in the engineering fields.

Indicators act as the gauge of whether, and to what degree, your program is making progress. Your program’s progress needs to be examined in two distinct ways:

  1. the quantity and quality of the program activities you are delivering, and
  2. the quantity and quality of the outcomes that your program is achieving.

For example, one indicator may be to “increase the number of African-American girls successfully passing advanced math classes in high school by 50% over the next three years.”

Equally important in this discussion are what information is being captured and how you capture information for evaluation.  If you are measuring progress for a particular indicator, you would want to determine the “base line” by obtaining data at the beginning of the program (e.g., how many African-American girls are successfully passing advanced math classes now).  In addition, consider using methods such as focus groups, surveys, and pre-/post-tests to capture relevant data.

As mentioned before, the more detailed you are in planning and executing program evaluation, the more confident you will be in communicating your program’s success (which could lead to increase support of your efforts).

Speaking of “increased support,” we will transition into a series of discussions focusing on obtaining financial support for your organization and programs.

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] – Quote by Cullin Hightower
[2] – Gajda, Rebecca & Jennifer Jewiss (2004).  Thinking about how to evaluate your program? these strategies will get you started. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 9(8). Source: http://pareonline.net/getvn.asp?v=9&n=8

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Let’s see…we’ve talked about assessing the needs of your community and matching these needs with your organization’s interests.  After assessing community needs, you would develop programming to address these needs.  We’ve talked about the importance of focusing your efforts to avoid trying to be all things to all people.  We’ve discussed the reasoning behind and necessity of knowing your target market (in other words, who you’re trying to reach to positively affect their lives in some way).  Now, let’s look at “needs assessment” from a different vantage point – what are the needs of YOUR ORGANIZATION to most effectively serve your target market with your programming.

When one begins to look at the needs of an organization, the focus usually sharpens very quickly on MONEY.  Now don’t get me wrong, having sufficient financial resources are vital for short- and long-term success, but it is not the first thing you need and it may not even be the most important!  As has been mentioned before, having the right PEOPLE on the team, I submit, is more important than money.  People help create the organization in its infancy…people can perform a preliminary community needs assessment…people develop the organization’s programming concepts…people help identify the MONEY! 

To expand this idea further, an organizational needs assessment should include answering the following questions:

  • Do we have the “right” board members?  Even though your board is enthusiastic and supportive, the experience and skill sets of the members may be very similar (e.g., members of the same church, neighbors, etc.) – on the surface, of course.  However, as you look at the make-up of your board, seek to identify members with experience in areas such as finance/accounting, management, legal, working with your target market(s), public relations, fundraising, city/county government, advocacy, and others.  Resources that can help include organizations such as Triangle BoardConnect (to identify potential board members) and BoardSource (building the board’s capacity).
  • How many volunteers do we need?  As you implement your programming, you cannot solely rely on board members to do the work.  You will need dedicated volunteers for program implementation and, ultimately, to become advocates and ambassadors on behalf of the organization.  (Possible resources:  United Way, Volunteer Match, and Senior Corps).
  • Are there other organizations in the community I can work with and how can I work with them?  You will learn about other organizations that do similar work and/or target similar markets as you perform your community needs assessment.  You will, also, get vital information from your board members because, in many cases, they are very familiar with these organizations and may even serve on their boards as well.  Feel free to reach out to these organizations to let them know what you plan to do, seek their advice and explore possible partnership opportunities.
  • How much money do I need and where can I find it?  You will need to determine your organizational and programming budget(s) as well as develop a strategy for securing these financial resources.  We’ll discuss this important topic in the near future.

You will find that by doing a thorough organizational needs assessment, you will identify YOUR needs to effective implement your programming that will address COMMUNITY needs.

Be strong and be blessed!

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What you offer for the betterment of the community, specifically your programming, is the “heart and soul” of any nonprofit organization. After you’ve assessed the needs of the community and matched them with your and/or your board’s “work passion”, you are in a position to develop your organization’s programming.

There a number of decisions that need to be made, including:

  • What specific services will be offered (e.g., tutoring, financial education, advocacy, technical assistance, etc.);
  • Who will offer these services (e.g., volunteers, staff, in partnership with other organizations, etc.);
  • How will the services be offered (e.g., web-based, one-on-one, in group settings, audio/video, etc.);
  • To whom will the services be offered (your target market(s) – this will be discussed in an upcoming blog);
  • Where will the services be offered (e.g., in the client’s home, in a church fellowship hall, at the library, in a public park, etc.);
  • How will you market your service offerings (e.g., public service announcements, paid advertising, posting flyers at the local community center, word-of-mouth, etc.);
  • How will success be measures (to be discussed later); and
  • Will there be a fee charged for these services.

As an example, to address the lack of exposure to the arts that has been determined to contribute to the achievement gap found in at-risk youth, you have decided to create an “arts academy”.  This academy will provide exposure to a variety of arts (e.g., music, visual, dance, etc.) for young people free of charge in partnership with the local parks and recreation department, students at the local college, and industry artists who have “made it big”.  Sessions will be held on Saturdays at local churches and community centers.  Advertising will be done through the local public access channel, flyers posted at barber shops/beauty salons/grocery stores, and announcements at churches in the area.

For those with a business background, these items sound eerily familiar to elements of a traditional business plan.  And you would be right!  In essence, most of our discussions have centered around the development of your nonprofit BUSINESS!  Even though you are, or will be, providing products and services that in many circles would be considered “charitable,” the foundation undergirding your efforts is a BUSINESS and should be viewed and managed like one, including asking questions like (1) How do I generate revenues to sustain my efforts? (2) How can I most efficiently offer my products/services? (3) Who will perform the accounting function of the organization’s finances? …and so on.

Back to program development…  The answers to the questions posed earlier will drive many other decisions, including the amount of money you will need at each stage of program execution, the human capacity you will need, what other partner organizations you will need to establish relationships with, and others.

Speaking of “partner organizations,” we plan to focus on this important element in the development of your programming next week.  Until next time…same blog time, same blog channel (Adam West aka Batman would be proud)!

Be strong and be blessed!

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As I reflect on this Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate my mother, Ruby Simmons Fuqua, and all of the mothers I had (and have) in my life (my grandmother, my aunt, my older (and younger) sister, the ladies at church and in the neighborhood, etc.).  The “village” that raised me and supported me is extensive and diverse and I thank them ALL for the role they had in shaping my life.

Since 2004, I’ve had to reflect on my own mother without her being here on this side of life.  This year, I think about the things that my mother taught me that led me to further develop an interest in and pursue a career in community economic development.

Entrepreneurship – When I started kindergarten, my mother “kept kids” for working families at our home.  She not only wanted to earn extra income for our family, she wanted the flexibility to be available for my younger sister and me when we were in school.  In fact, for some families, she provided babysitting services for more than one generation.  My mother taught me to not be afraid of hard work and that owning your own business can provide freedom and flexibility.

Community Service – My exposure to community service began with seeing my mother and others support families in the neighborhood when important events happened (e.g., marriages, deaths, graduations, etc.).  That support helped to strengthen, unify and stabilize the neighborhood.  In today’s time, with the increased mobility of families, neighborhood support and community service has become more and more “corporate” in nature (e.g., neighborhood associations).  However, no matter the structure (home-grown vs. corporate), the same results are desired – strong, unified and stable communities.  My desire for community service is a direct result of my early observations of the work of my mother and others.

Education – Even though my mother did not finish high school, she was a strong supporter of my educational pursuits.  In fact, to this day I remember that it was my mother that taught me how to multiply 100 and 100 (multiply the numbers in front of the zeros (1 x 1) and then add the number of zeros (4) to the end of the multiplied number to get the answer – 10,000) and how to spell “comfortable” (Com – For – Table).  She taught me that difficult challenges can be addressed by looking at the problem in smaller components and addressing them one by one.

Take this time to reflect on the positive lessons your mother (and those that represented motherhood) taught you and use them in your service for the betterment of your community.

Be strong and be blessed!

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