Start a volunteer program
How can you solicit help from volunteers? Follow these steps to start a successful volunteer program:
- Assess all current program needs and create a list of volunteer opportunities
- Write job descriptions for each of these opportunities, stating the following:
- Dates and time commitment
- What needs to be done, as well as what skills, resources, knowledge or abilities that would be helpful
- Number of volunteers
- Location and the resources needed for the project
- Benefits for volunteers who choose to participate
- Recruit members through newsletter ads, website listings, a hotline, announcements during events and rides, personal requests for member participation from those who have expressed interest in the past, e-mail announcements
- Show appreciation by regularly recognizing volunteers in public and private ways. This may include a volunteer of the month column in the newsletter, a verbal or written "thank you," a certificate of appreciation, and/or a round of applause. You may consider taking a volunteer out for coffee or throwing an annual banquet that recognizes their efforts.
Should you ever guilt someone into volunteering? No. While it may be tempting at times, never twist someone's arm into doing a volunteer project. If volunteers feel forced to work on a project in which they are not interested, the chance they will return later is greatly reduced. Accept that people will decline when asked to volunteer for reasons they may not wish to share. Eventually they will participate when they are free to give of their time and talents.
Create a technology program
What is a technology plan and how do I budget for it? The following are elements to budget and plan for:
- Hire an information technology (IT) consultant who will plan, implement and support all your IT needs.
- Work with an Internet Service Provider to establish your domain name, website and email addresses, as well as your Internet connection.
- Have a volunteer or someone on staff create and reliably maintain your website. If you don't have anyone, seek training for yourself. Frequent maintenance of your website is essential.
- Set up a secure server on your website to enable your organization to accept credit card donations over the Internet.
- Establish a local area network (LAN). Even the smallest two-person office derives benefits from being on a network. Printing is easier, editing documents is easier and viewing and sharing data is greatly simplified.
- Invest in your workstations. Buy a processor with the fastest speed you can afford, the largest RAM you can afford, and the largest hard disk you can buy.
- Establish a back-up system. You never know when your mother board will decide to stop working for no apparent reason.
- Find quality membership database/fundraising software. You will need to use this software for data entry, coding, indexing, sorting and queries, mail merges, generating reports, etc.
Some items to consider when purchasing database software are the following:
- Total cost including software purchase price, user-licenses, data conversion, technical support, and staff training
- Options you can use to code a member
- Processes for importing/exporting data and performing mail merges
- Search features using single or multiple criteria
- Processes for indexing and segmenting any group of members
- Capacities to capture, manage, and report data for special events
- Ease of data entry
Should you create a fundraising database through an off-the-shelf database programs like Access or Paradox? No. Unless you have a full-time IT department who you can rely on for timely assistance, it is probably not a good idea to develop your own system.
Find quality accounting software. The following factors often play an important role in the final selection of accounting software for nonprofits:
- Reporting features like the following:
- General ledger, detailing each transaction posted to each account
- Consolidated general ledger, not displaying detail
- Bank reconciliation format, showing monthly receipts and disbursements
- Income and expense statements for each program and a consolidated statement of income and expenses for the year to date
- Balance sheet information for the organization
- A budget to actual comparison for the organization
- Ease of exporting data into spreadsheet software for more flexible reporting
- Cost, noting the higher price you pay the more features you will receive — the lower the cost, the more limited functions
- Capability to easily handle the payroll function, including W-2s and 1099s
- Security features that prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing and/or manipulating data in the accounting system
- Availability of technical support
Can you keep the books on spreadsheet software? This is not a good idea since there are so few controls for spreadsheet software. Numbers can be easily changed, damaging the integrity of financial reports.