The To-Do Checklist When Working with Charities and Other Non-Profits
AS A CASUAL SUPPORTER:
- Be aware of all events and be willing to spend on a ticket for you and a plus one. If you don’t want to be at the event or cannot attend, gift the ticket purchase to a worthy recipient and make the purchase anyway.
- Be willing to share on social media if something makes sense to your particular friends/fans to further the goals of the organization. Share feedback if the content is uncomfortable to share or out of line with your audience/sphere of influence.
- Set aside between $150 and $1500 a year as a donation and earmark it to a general fund item. If you increase the amount, at some point it will make sense to specify the donation to be used on a pet project but at these levels, recognize the importance of general operating funds, especially for fully grant funded organizations.
- Be willing to share skills that you have that can improve the organizations offerings. This doesn’t need to be in the day-to-day operations per se, but could also be in marketing or promotional efforts to help solidify their reputation among new demographics, etc.
- Don’t ask for favors unless you’ve been approached and told you can or should. It’s not because you haven’t been generous, but because it can cause a large strain on events or during normal operations to make you feel like a celebrity. As a casual supporter, it’s OK to ask for special one-offs, if management makes it clear that they want you to take advantage of such offers.
- Make sure you understand the elevator pitch and the specific mission and vision of the organization and that you are referring donors and volunteers to the correct point person.
AS A MAJOR DONOR
- Be willing to attend at the very minimum, the annual event fundraiser and to make a big showing there. Even if you aren’t bidding on every auction item or throwing money at the organization, at least showing your vocal support at that annual event is quite important. If you cannot attend, or prefer to be more private, please at least make sure you are buying a table and donating to worthy recipients, or putting people who would otherwise be potential donors in those seats.
- Consider your threshold for donation and meet with the Executive Director, or other representatives to ensure any specific asks can be handled and are within reason if you have pet projects. Generally the donation for a local charity is $5k+ a year to get into the major donor status. Most major donors are likely to go more than 10k a year as a standing donation. It’s ok to ask for small favors and to earmark funds at these thresholds, but the projects should align well with the general practices of the organization, certainly.
- You won’t be expected to use social media unless that is part of your personal brand, or you have a robust following and the cause aligns well with the followers. In lieu of that, you will be “expected” to consider a sponsorship at the annual event and at smaller fundraising events. Consideration is important, even if it’s just in name only to help spur others on to donate.
- Get to know the board and the management. Make sure you give input as it makes sense to, to keep the organization growing properly and funded well.
AS A BOARD MEMBER:
- Attend as many board meetings as possible. Serve on reasonably aligned committees and offer your skills to improve the board and management experience.
- Understand the legalities and compliance concerns that you will be bound to as a board member. hold yourself to the highest standard of care in a fiduciary capacity and in order to keep legal liabilities to a minimum.
- Be willing to volunteer and get family involved as it makes sense. a few extra hours a year never hurt anyone, especially since you are already committing to dozens of hours in a board member capacity.
- Always be on the lookout for skilled volunteers that can further the goals of the organization. this is particularly true for technology and innovation skillsets that can help the organization stay at the edge of development and progression. Be able to persuade these candidates to serve alongside you by understanding the elevator pitch for the organization and understanding how to tell a story about what the company does and how it sets itself apart.
- Buy tickets to all the events. Even if you are not in a financial position to make large donations. The simple fundraising effort and willingness to pitch in, goes a long way to showing your support. Budget for the events if needed. If you feel the ticket prices are too high, or that you cannot support the organization at that level monetarily, take legitimate strides to improve the product/fundraising options.
- Buy some books on board governance and non-profit management. The following can be quite enlightening. BOOK #1 | BOOK #2 | BOOK #3
- Be willing to engage with people about the organization in public and have a couple of rehearsed pitches that can help you through that process when the time arises.
- If you cannot contribute money each year to the organization, figure out a way to raise in-kind donations or monetary contributions through friends, colleagues and other sources to make up for the shortfall.
- Plan on spending 100 hours doing board related things, and in a volunteer position that highlights your specific and strategic skillset annually.