Four FREE Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your NonProfit

It’s a short week.  Here’s a short list of good (and free) ideas that can improve your nonprofit right no


Park and walk into your primary building as if you are visiting it for the first time.  If you are not sure you can be objective, bring an honest friend.  Ask, what does your client encounter and what does this experience say about your organization? 

Are the parking lot and exterior of the building well-marked, clean, and inviting?  Is landscaping neat and healthy or overgrown (or dead)?  Can a newcomer easily find the entrance?  Is it accessible?  Are signs legible and well-placed?  Do you have too many signs?

What about your entry area? Is it safe, clean, and appealing?  Is it uncluttered?  Does your front desk have extraneous materials or a messy appearance?  Are papers taped or tacked on the wall?  Have piles accumulated in the corners or on tables?  Are available materials up to date?  Are messages appropriately friendly (“this is a smoke-free environment,” “please enjoy this display without touching”) or negative (“no smoking,” “do not touch”).


Create a list of items that donors could give to your organization.  Do you need a new fridge in the break room?  Filing cabinets?  Old towels/rags?  A power drill?  Folding chairs?  Publicize your list at your regular board meetings and perhaps on your website.  If you need ideas, look through your expenses and see what items you are paying for regularly.  Maybe someone would like to occasionally donate paper towels, copy paper, or art supplies.  Maybe they own a paper towel company. 

The publication of a wish list also helps ensure donors that you are (a) a good steward of their money and (b) not out purchasing at full retail all the time.  And, an in-kind donation, well appreciated, can often lead to a monetary gift as donors become more engaged.   


If you do not normally reconcile your organization’s bank statement, take a stab at it this month.  Without taking anyone else’s word for it, discover for yourself the reason for each payment.  Were checks matched up to purchase orders and/or invoices before being paid?  For all items purchased, can find you find them physically in your building? (Yes!  Go look for them.)  For multiple item purchases, did anyone count and inventory the incoming materials?  Google any new or unfamiliar companies to ensure they exist.  If individuals were paid, randomly call one or two to ask what the payment was for.  (Tell them you are performing an audit of accounts payable and need to confirm that they received $250 last month…and what for.)  Check any recurring invoices (such as the utility bill or lawncare service) to see if they are in line with previous monthly amounts for the last 18 months.  If you find anything of which you were not aware, do not be afraid to follow the thread until you are satisfied.   

Your actions do four things:  First, you may learn something about your own organization of which you were unaware.  Second, you may discover oversight or naivete on the part of a staff person who will benefit from your counsel.  Third, you demonstrate to your business office the importance of this practice to help ensure they perform reconciliations correctly themselves.  Finally, you may actually uncover some external or (yikes) internal dishonesty.


Just pull them off the shelf and power through them.  Are the bylaws consistent? Do they make sense?  Do items in article ten contradict items in article four?  Are there references to outdated practices, programs, or committees?  Are your by-laws so overly complex they could be used to run a small country?  Most importantly, is your organization operating within the stated parameters of your own bylaws?  (If not, it is probably time to commission the by-laws committee.) 

Yes, by-laws can be boring.  And, honestly, you may not need to consult them any time soon.  But I tell my clients this:  by-laws may not seem to matter…until they do.  By-laws help settle disputes and can prevent board members from going rogue.  And, if you are operating outside your by-laws in one area, then it is extremely hard to convince people that they should operate within the by-laws in another area. 

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