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13 Nonprofits to Support at Year-end

13 Nonprofits to Support at Year-end

The end of the calendar year is a time for reflection and planning. For many, it is also an opportunity to make a tax-deductible contribution to a favorite nonprofit organizations.

Social Change Consulting has been fortunate to have worked with many amazing nonprofit organizations over the last few years. Below are a handful of organizations that I believe in and have enjoyed working with. While we’ve also worked with a few foundations and 501c4’s that do not have donation options, these are 13 nonprofits that I can recommend from first-hand experience.

Gender Spectrum

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

Gender Spectrum helps to create gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens. We’ve been working with them for a few years and their entire team is incredibly dedicated to creating a world in which every child can live as their authentic self.

Jackson Orthopaedic Foundation (JOF)

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

JOF is dedicated to improving the lives of people with musculoskeletal conditions through education, research and service. The organization is primarily volunteer driven – their team works around the clock to educate the public and health-care professionals.

Latinas Contra Cancer (LCC)

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

LCC was founded to address the void in culturally and linguistically sensitive programs that meet the health care needs of Latinos around issues of cancer. We’ve worked with LCC on a few projects – they are passionate and always working to find the best ways to support their constituents.

Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ)

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

LEJ promotes ecological health, environmental stewardship, and community development in Southeast San Francisco by creating urban greening, eco-literacy, community stewardship and workforce development opportunities. They have a small team that is doing awesome work that will have a long-term impact in Bayview/Hunters Point.

Orion Academy

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

Orion Academy is a day school designed to provide a comprehensive program for high school students whose academic success is compromised by a neurocognitive disability. Orion was great to work with and dedicated to their students. After beginning our work with them, I learned that an extended family member had attended Orion and had a great experience.

Real Boy Documentary

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

Real Boy is the coming-of-age story of Bennett Wallace, a transgender teenager on a journey to find his voice—as a musician, a friend, a son, and a man. We’ve been fortunate to work with filmmaker Shaleece Haas when working with Gender Spectrum. Shaleece is a joy to work with and a brilliant filmmaker. 

California Culture Change Coalition (CCCC)

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

CCCC’s mission is to provide support and expertise to California’s nursing homes assisting them to become models for quality of care, quality of life and quality of work. This was an area/mission that I didn’t have much knowledge about at the outset of the project; there is an unbelievable need for their work.

California School-Based Health Alliance (CSBHA)

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

CSBHA aims to improve the health and academic success of children and youth by advancing health services in schools. Their work throughout the state helps students maintain their health and success. They have a tremendous effect on a number of key outcomes throughout California and do this via an innovative and surprisingly small team.

Cotlands

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

Cotlands is a non-profit early childhood development organisation in South Africa addressing the education and social crisis by establishing early learning playgroups and toy libraries in under-resourced communities to serve vulnerable children aged birth to six. We just began working with Cotlands and their ability to support children throughout South Africa is awe-inspiring.

Hopalong Animal Rescue

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

Their mission is to eliminate the euthanasia of adoptable animals throughout Northern California. Since being founded in 1993, Hopalong has collectively saved over 24,000 animals, placing them in loving, permanent homes. We worked on a couple of projects with Hopalong. While we always enjoyed their staff and volunteers, we especially loved the meetings that included kittens and puppies cuddling on us.

Infant Development Association of California (IDA)

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

IDA is a multidisciplinary organization of parents and professionals committed to ensuring optimal developmental outcomes for infants with special needs and their families. IDA was our first client and we worked with the Board for the North Chapter, who were passionate and devoted to infants and their families.

Mills College Children’s School (MCCS)

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

MCCS is a model for excellence in child-centered education. The oldest laboratory school on the West Coast and part of the renowned School of Education at Mills, the Children’s School serves children from age 0–10 in three developmentally appropriate programs. We worked with the parent association and staff – their team is very committed to the children at their school and create a great learning environment for students and teachers.

Rushing to Yoga Foundation (RTY)

Click here to visit their website :: Click here to donate

RTY seeks to strengthen peace and compassion within higher education by providing the Integrative Inquiry curriculum, customized retreats and workshops for higher education faculty and administrators, keynotes and seminars for the general public, and personalized coaching for students, administrators, and faculty. RTY was one of our first projects and their team is incredibly thoughtful, passionate, and dedicated.

 

Best of Social Change Consulting, Year One. #1 The Demise of Social Media

Our last favorite article from the past year is entitled “The Demise of Social Media.” While social media continues to evolve, articles will continue to argue that social media’s best days are long past. We disagree – and hope that nonprofits continue to invest time and resources into these powerful engagement tools.

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A few articles last week spoke of the demise of social media – from teens not finding it cool, to the uneducated demographics of Twitter, to the lack of financial stability on Wall Street, it seems like some are ready to throw in the towel. So why continue to focus on this space, especially as a nonprofit with limited resources and time? Because these articles miss out on the most valuable asset that social media has going for it right now – untapped potential.

The dynamic nature of the tech industry means that sites, concepts, and strategies are constantly changing. While this sounds daunting, it isn’t a bad thing. As we continue to learn about trends, influences, and ideas across these platforms, we have the ability to use them for the greater good, and in a more direct case, for the betterment of the causes we support.

Social media allows nonprofits to have a cost effective resource to tap into their current volunteers and their future constituents in a way that was unfathomable in years past. Relationship building is still the goal, but now on a much grander scale. The networks created on these sites are the true untapped resource, as they can be the base of your future fundraising and volunteer efforts that was previously unreachable in the era of cold calls and direct mailings.

Take for example Sumazi, a new service built on the Facebook platform (and soon to be others). Sumazi allows you to take advantage of the network you already have and expand it to make the connections that are vital to the success of your organization. And this tapping of resources is impossible without the participation and dedication to social media platforms.

As we’ve written about previously, it is hard to predict what the future of social media may hold, but one thing that we know will remain constant is the need for nonprofits to continue to communicate with and cultivate volunteers and donors. Relationship building is at the core of this; the same relationship management that has been happening for decades thanks to dedicated boards, staff members, and volunteers is still vitally necessary today. Despite the recent criticisms of social media, there is no better time to take these relationships to the next level and utilize the untapped potential of this dynamic communication platform. Let us help.

Best of Social Change Consulting, Year One. #2 Small Nonprofits vs. Big Nonprofits

So many resources available online today espouse the need for nonprofits to be online and social. To substantiate their claims, they list highly regarded research in the area that show the nonprofits currently having success. But just because two organizations are nonprofits, doesn’t mean they are at all alike, especially when it comes to size, scope, and income. Our second favorite post from the last year touches on this – Small Nonprofits vs. Big Nonprofits.

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According to the most recent NTEN Social Media Benchmark study, nonprofits average 8,317 likes on Facebook. We have seen this statistic circulated widely showing the success that nonprofits are having in the social media space. But buried at the bottom of the report is the description of who they contacted for this survey – and while 46% of respondents self-reported their income as less than $1M annually, these nonprofits will be dwarfed in surveys like this if when using statistics like averages. One organization represented in this survey has an annual income of over $250M – does that sound like your nonprofit?

So many guides and pieces of advice given from consultants, online webinars, and white papers are not focused on smaller NPO’s – the advice they give and the examples they use oftentimes are related to some of the largest nonprofits in the country. For example, while mobile giving through text messaging has proven successful for organizations like the American Red Cross, how would this same model be implemented to an organization whose email size is 300 names? How can social media be leveraged for an organization who currently has 200 fans and is in a small community? How do you justify expanding into the social media space with so few resources?

As is true across many different industries and marketing tools, but is especially so with social media, an important tenant to remember is that you get out of it what you put into it. For nonprofits who are not putting resources and time into creating engaging content, reaching out to other nonprofits, or building a social media community, they will likely never see the end results that are being touted to them by major social media proponents. But there are still ways to show that social media is valuable even on a small scale, and it is here that smaller nonprofits can engage their community and find value.

Building on an online community takes time. If you want this fan base to grow, you have to first decide the strategy behind using social media. Do you want to build a community, drive traffic to your website, source a new donor pool? Next you need to determine your target audience. Finally, you can start crafting content and working towards building up your community. And while these pieces of advice hold true regardless of the size of your nonprofit, the numbers and success stories will look different.

As we continue to work with smaller nonprofits and help guide them in this tricky social media realm, our hope is to share the success stories and results both here in this blog, but also continue to update our Resources page. You don’t have to be a multi-million dollar nonprofit to find success in social media – don’t let the major reports and benchmark studies discourage you from entering this valuable space.

Best of Social Change Consulting, Year One. #3 Nonprofit Executives and Twitter

Twitter may not be the new kid on the block anymore, but it is surprising how few nonprofit executives are truly embracing the platform. For our third favorite post of the last year, we compiled some advice for those executives interested in venturing into Twitter, as well as some of our favorite examples from around the web.

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Nonprofit organizations of all sizes work tirelessly to build their audience and communicate more effectively. Some charities have been successful with executive staff that have a public presence on Twitter, while other organizations have struggled in building an audience. There are a few factors to take into consideration if an executive at your charity is considering doing this.

There are many different ways to utilize Twitter to promote your organization and brand. We’ve stated in this space that Twitter – like all forms of social media – is most effective when used as an engagement and communication tool, compared to just a broadcasting mechanism.

To better understand the difference we’ve highlighted the Twitter feeds from two executives from a large organization, the American Cancer Society. With CEO John Seffrin, (@AmerCancerCEO) tweets are focused on organizational news and often highlight other internal Twitter accounts. It is focused on broadcasting updates. Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley (@OtisBrawley) tweets regularly with similar organizational updates but he also replies to people, shares his own personal views on current events, and links to articles that interest him.

These different communication styles are widely used but have different goals. One style is being used to disseminate updates, the other is being used to engage and interact with an audience.

If your goal is highlight updates and news items, then you can use Twitter to broadcast those to an audience. The ability to build an audience will often be limited; Twitter users like to interact and communicate with the people that they follow.

If your goal is to build an engaged audience, then it’s important that you consider some important questions. Is the executive at your nonprofit able to commit time to communicating in this space? Is he or she willing to be the public face of the organization? Is he or she comfortable with writing people back without input from other staff? If your executive takes a lot of time to craft any communication and prefers to have multiple people review it, Twitter might not be the right fit for them. Volunteers, journalists, and strangers are going to send public or direct messages to your executive and they need to be comfortable in handling these.

Twitter is another tool in your organization’s proverbial toolbox.  It’s important to utilize this tool, but only in an effective manner. An engaged and interactive executive helps to elevate your organization and brand.

If you’re looking for examples of nonprofit executives that have a strong Twitter presence, we suggest you follow these folks:

  • Bill Shore – Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Share Our Strength  – @billshore
  • Kate Barr – Executive Director of Nonprofits Assistance Fund – @KateSBarr
  • Robert Egger – Founder of DC Central Kitchen and CForward a 510c4. Currently starting L.A. Kitchen – @robertegger
  • Cecile Richards – President of Planned Parenthood – @CecileRichards
  • Jim Canales – President and CEO, The James Irvine Foundation – @jcanales
  • Terry Ryall – CEO of vInspired in the United Kingdom – @Terry_Ryall
  • Stephen Browning – President & CEO, Pet Partners -‏ @BrowningStephen
  • Michael Chae – Executive Director of Bay Area chapter of American Diabetes Association – @mchae

Best of Social Change Consulting, Year One. #4 The Danger of Charity Rankings

Our number four entry of the best blog posts of the year relates to the danger of charity rankings. In the piece, we reference Dan Pallotta, an author and philanthropist who recently gave a TED talk related to the topic below. He says it in his talk, as well as in his book, and we say it below, but it cannot be said enough: it is time to stop holding nonprofits to such an antiquated standard, and to allow them to really have an impact in their communities.

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Anyone who has worked for a nonprofit organization likely has a story about the lack of money and resources in their working environments. From antiquated technologies, to underpaid staff, to old and impractical furniture, nonprofits are expected to change the world with budgets that for profits would find laughable. Which begs the question – why do we hold charities and nonprofits to such unrealistic expectations of financial accountability?

In his recent book, “Uncharitable,” Dan Pallotta goes into a bit of the history behind charitable giving and postulates on its impact on our modern day interpretation of what nonprofit governance should look like. His theory revolves around Puritanical ideals of charity being something that is separate from one’s selfish desires – to be truly charitable means that no benefit can come to the doer.

This idea has in one way or another spread to the governance of nonprofits and charities, as most now agree that these organizations should be run with little to no overhead or administrative costs. A common sentiment is that 80% of money coming into the organization should be spent directly on the mission, and that any lower amount is tantamount to wasteful and uncharitable. These numbers only get more unrealistic in the world of grants, where grantees oftentimes do not factor in for administration of said grant in their donation to the charity, but still factor in overhead costs when evaluating possible winners.

But worst of all in these categorizations of nonprofit success are the so called “charity ratings” (and the websites that provide these). While an admirable goal to make it easier for the average donor to know what organizations are considered to be trustworthy, what they are actually doing is over simplifying charity success – to an increasingly negative degree for the future success of nonprofits.

While most would agree there should be accountability with charities in how it uses donor dollars, these rating systems have a tendency to only focus on these numbers through analysis of what is knowns as the IRS-990 form. An imperfect form to be sure, but one created with the intention of tax exemption status and not what it is currently being used for – analysis of success of a charity.

The prominence of these sites, and the active communities that interact and add reviews to them, bring new challenges for charities already battling with a lack of resources. To keep up with the unrealistic expectations of financial frugality, some charities have started to change how they fill out their 990 forms. In order to fall under the 20% overhead ratio, some are pushing fundraising and administrative expenses to other areas of their budgeting so as to seem more efficient in the eyes of donors, but also in effect making this system of analysis useless moving forward.

When not reorganizing their financial figures to fit the mold, most are also cutting back in key areas. Infrastructure is usually one of the first pieces to be left behind in a nonprofits budget – but when staff use outdated and slow technologies that belabor their efforts and slow down their work, what is really being saved? How does spending less on operations, fundraising, and administrative tasks truly show the value and impact a charity is having in its community?

This is not an easy problem to fix, and likely any nonprofit that breaks away from convention and fights back against these rigid requirements will find themselves ostracized from the giving community. But changes do need to take place. Nonprofits will continue to struggle to make long term and significant social change if they are hampered by antiquated and obtuse policies.  If donors considered their gift as more of an investment, than a charitable offering, would there be less need for intense bureaucratic oversight? How much time and resources are wasted by nonprofit organizations each year in the pursuit of creating transparency? The next time you look into the rating of a charity before donating, take a moment to think why you are donating. Is it to make an impact in your community? Is that something you can determine just by looking at the bottom line?

Best of Social Change Consulting, Year One. #5 The Power of Thanks

As we passed the one year mark of posting to the Social Change Consulting blog, we thought it was high time to highlight some of our favorite posts from the last year. While not a scientific review of our best work, we thought these postings showed our growth over the last year, our dedication to working with small nonprofits, and our hope for helping those organizations be the best they can be.

Without further ado, here is our fifth favorite post from the last year, an ode to giving thanks that we initially debuted prior to Thanksgiving, in its entirety. Enjoy.

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As we approach the end of the calendar year, nonprofits everywhere are gearing up for their last fundraising push. Research has shown that up to one-third of all giving is done in the month of December alone, making this end of year appeal critical for the success of nonprofits. But before you make the ask, consider the following data per national research conducted by Cygnus Applied Research:

“84% of donors surveyed said they would continue to give and give more to charities that provided them with three things:  

  • prompt gift acknowledgement (within two weeks);  
  • specific designation of their gifts; and  
  • measurable results of their gifts at work before they are asked for another contribution (Cygnus Applied Research). “

An important part of any relationship is gratitude – both upon receipt of the donation and throughout the calendar year. Donor stewardship begins and ends with communicating appreciation. It’s not enough just to make the ask – to cultivate a strong relationship with your donors, you must show that their contribution was not just impactful to your organization, but made a difference in their community.

Be specific in your thanks. While time and resources might make it easier to send one bulk thank you message to donors, consider the research we included at the top of this message. Donors want to be thanked, and donors want to know the measurable results of their gifts at work – not just the work your organization is doing in general. What did their $25, $50, or $100 provide? What is the impact that they had in their community through your organization?

Being specific doesn’t stop with this past year’s contributions. How much has this donor given over the course of their relationship with an organization? What have their years of support made possible? Again, time and resources make this difficult for every donor, but any effort made in showing that your organization cares specifically about this one donor’s contributions will help steward that relationship.

There are so many more avenues of thanks available now than ever before. Nonprofits are no longer limited simply to email communications or newsletters to thank gifts – social media is a unique and potentially potent avenue to appreciate your donors. For those fans of your Facebook page that have donated this year – think of the potential long term value of your relationship if you thanked them tagged them in a thank you post or image. Not only will this help with this relationship, but will spread your message to that person’s social network and expand your audience to new donors.

Every message you send to constituents and donors should have a purpose – and there is none more important than that of saying thanks. As we approach the intense December giving push, be sure to thank your donors as well as making the ask. Gratitude and appreciation are vital to any relationship, but especially one with those most committed to your organization’s mission.