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Posts Tagged ‘project’

Reviewing Financial Reports

s_falkow

Recently, I was asked, “What are some basic steps we can do to improve our financial management?”

I was visiting a local congregation and the leaders were in the process of reviewing their financial history, operations, and current accounting controls. In the meeting I listed off about five items, but in reflection, I thought I would create an official list of financial basics for nonprofit management.

Financial Basics for Nonprofit Management:

  • Tracking of Data- by tracking data, you can determine benchmarks for growth or decline. Be sure to track participation, income, expenses, donations (and levels of giving), and long term goals (and to communicate these to leaders, donors, and members).
  • Accounting Controls-many small nonprofits rely upon 1 or 2 people to handle all of their bookkeeping. This leaves them vulnerable to fraud and usually limits financial communications. Be sure to have monthly review of finances, independent reviews of bookkeeping, limits on spending, and requirements for approval of spending.
  • 6 Months of Emergency Savings- every organization should have 6 months of cash savings available to cover expenses in an emergency.
  • Line of Credit- as organizations grow, they can improve their cash flow by taking out a line of credit or operating loan. LOC should be capped at around 3 months of expenses, and often operate similar to a credit card for an organization.
  • Multiple Income Streams-no organization should only have one line of income. By creating multiple revenue streams, nonprofits increase their stability.
  • Endowment & Net Assets– Gone are the days when a nonprofit organization should operate at a net zero. By creating endowments and net assets, nonprofits can cover the cost of their operations, allowing more of their donations to immediately  go into outreach.
  • Facility Management– Buildings cost a lot to maintain and operate. If you own a facility, be sure keep up with facility maintenance, use it as resource, and improve it as building code and mission needs change- otherwise it can become black-hole that sucks money away from your mission focus.
  • Board Development- Board members are ultimately responsible for organizations- be sure board members understand their roles and that they are giving proper oversight of staff and operations.
  • Insurance- Be sure that your organization has enough insurance to cover its liabilities for its staff, operations, facilities, and to protect the organization from lawsuits and emergencies.
  • Management & Gift Policies-smaller nonprofits often lack staff, organizational management (by laws), and gift policies which help organize and outline how nonprofit organizations operate and how donations should be accepted and used.
  • Financial Relationships– this may seem like an odd item for this list, but knowing your bank manager, accountant, insurance broker, and financial advisers personally can be critical in emergencies and/or when you need additional help.

There are many other items that could be added to this list (brand management, communications, mission focus, etc), but these are some highlights to help you review how your church or nonprofit organization manages its financial operations.

 

 

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Programmable Wifi Thermostats

The Nest

When most of us think about a HV/AC system, we usually picture an older furnace- rarely would we picture a sleek thermostat that connects to a wifI system. However, this seems to be the future of energy controls for commercial and residential buildings.

Since 2008, manufacturers have offered thermostats that can connect to a wifi system, thus allowing control and access to the system via the internet. This has been a great upgrade, but until now many of the programmable thermostats have been confusing to use. In fact, the US Dept of Energy realized that most people who purchased programmable thermostats, actually used more energy than before, because they were too complicated to use.

So in an effort to make programmable thermostats more user friendly, several companies have begun to create systems that can be controlled by a computer using a program like Microsoft Outlook set set room temperatures.  Other companies, have also begun to make intuitive thermostats that create a pattern of use based on how you adjust the temperature over a period of a few weeks.

With heating and cooling systems accounting for 16% of the electricity in the USA, and more than half of the energy consumed in a house, HV/AC systems will continue to be a focus for utility companies as they try to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States. This trend will likely also become a focus of more and more churches, facility managers, and home owners as the cost of energy continues to rise.

After all, the less money that people and organizations are forced to pay for utilities, operations, and energy, the more money they have to support the mission and programs that they value. For more information about changing HV/AC systems, please read the following articles:

Blog notes: Several of the stats given in this blog were pulled from these  two articles. The picture above comes from several sources and is provided by the company and can be found on their website- http://www.nest.com

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On Monday I was interviewed by Alex Johnson, a reporter for MSNBC.com about how churches are using social media.

In the interview I really tried to stress that churches really have a great opportunity to connect with their local communities (via social media), and that the conversation was taking place, with or without their official presence.  Here is the link to the full article: “For Some Churches, The Internet Clicks; for Others It Doesn’t”

social media

some_communication

Much of article focuses on how different denominations and local churches have adapted to using social media.  But, the article also helps to spell out that congregations need to think through how they plan to use it.  It is not enough just to create a facebook page or to have a static website.  Instead, churches really need to think about their ‘brand’ and what messages they hope to convey to their potential audience.

As you read the article, here are some helpful questions to ask about your church’s use of Social Media:

  1. Who are we trying to target?
  2. What is our overall goal for using Social Media
  3. What messages should we try to communicate?
  4. How can we participate in the conversation, rather than just push out information? (more…)

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Last week I was contacted by Bart Voight of Voight Creations about setting up a referral process for churches who might need visual renderings or 3D modeling for their various building or capital fundraising campaigns.

In many cases, architects can provide a simple floor plan or elevation sketches to help donors envision what the final project will look like. However, in some cases a church may wish to consider having a more detailed or realistic model, which can now be created with 3D technology (see image).

church rendering

Voigt Creations

In my conversation with Bart, I asked him, “What are the top 5 reasons a church may wish to use this technology?” His responses are below.

What are the top 5 reasons a rendering would be helpful to a church?

  1. Clarification of concepts and ideas-  the vision of the project
  2. Zoning or code approval- assisting local zoning boards (more…)

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Social Media Magazine

some_communication

With so many people interacting online through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc) more and more companies and nonprofits have begun to develop their own social media presence and brand.

Usually the entrance into social media happens through the interaction of members of the organization, and then maybe someone creates an ‘official fan page.’  But quickly (and informally), many churches and nonprofits have found themselves expanding and creating online content, without creating a full vision of how they wish to use and maintain their social media presence.

This topic has been on my mind this week after I was asked by a pastor, “Do you have or know of a good social media policy for churches?”

I had to respond by saying, “No, but if you give me a day or so, I can pull some notes from the social media policy at our office, and share them.”  So here goes… I have cut an paste a few suggestions that are good rules of thumbs if your congregation wishes to have a social media policy for its staff, operations, board, and members.

Social Media Policy

Intro:

XXX (insert your church or nonprofit’s name here) encourages employees, directors and other partners to adopt social media as a means to engage others in our ministry in missional ways. Whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, writing a blog, uploading (more…)

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On Monday, I talked about how technology can bridge the accountability gap that separates donors from beneficiaries, and in the post I shared that I would write 3 blogs showing how such examples can be used. This is the second of three posts.

You might have heard of Mark Horvath if you listen to NPR, watch CNN, or if you are a SXSW junkie-  He is the guy who started the the nonprofit organization, InvisiblePeople.tv, in 2008 to help tell the true story of homelessness in America.

Mark started the project when he found himself homeless, and when asked why he launched the site Mark said (excerpts taken from an interview by Kevin D. Hendricks):

Two things,

1) When I started InvisiblePeople.tv, I was close to 19 months unemployed, moving fast forward into foreclosure. I don’t think I could have filled out one more job application, and I filled out a lot. I couldn’t find work and I had to do something to keep from going crazy.

2) I knew from my own experience that the homeless story wasn’t being told correctly. We needed to empower (more…)

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When you listen to the national news the biggest stories have been the economy and the lack of jobs for Americans. Some headlines list that the national unemployment rate is 8.2%, while others talk about the stock market and sales numbers.

Rev. George MacLeod

As I was listening to a similar report this past weekend, I stopped to reflect about how local churches can offer assistance or help to people who are struggling to find work. In my thoughts, I remembered reading a story about a pastor in Scotland who was named George MacLeod.

Rev. MacLeod was best known for founding the Iona Community in Scotland, but before this time, he was  a pastor at the Old Govan Parish Church in Glasgow.  He served there during the 1930’s (Great Depression), as the Glasgow ship building industry started to decline, and he was struck by the amount of poverty around him.

As a pastor, he decided that it was time for his church to make a difference in his community, and with other church and civic leaders,   Rev. MacLeod developed several work programs. (more…)

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As cities continue to grow and add building and parking lots,  storm water runoff is becoming a big issue.  Many urban areas have combined sewer and storm water systems, and when it rains, they easily can be overwhelmed and cause raw sewage to enter local rivers and streams.

In Indianapolis, for example, it only takes 1/4 inch of rain to cause the sewer system to over flow, and thus, more and more cities are looking for ways to reduce the amount of storm water that enters the sewage system.  Cities like Chicago are creating ‘green roofs,’ rain gardens, and they are using porous pavement to allow water to seep back into the ground.

Curious to show the benefits of these techniques, I took a tour of the new Nature Conservancy office in Indiana.  The facility was built last year, and using the USGBC LEED rating system, the architect added a ‘green roof’ and a two phase rain garden (see pictures below). These systems helped the building achieve points in the areas of Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency (SS5.1, SS6.1, SS7.2, WE1), which were used toward achieving their overall LEED certification.

The first picture shows the roof of the facility,  and how the conservancy used local and native plants to create a green space on their roof.  My tour guide said that this roof has helped to lower the cost to cool the facility in the summer, reduce storm water runoff, provided added protection to the roof’s membrane, and created a new habitat for birds and insects.

Plants on a roof (more…)

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Today’s guest blog was written by Mary Heron Dyer, a Unity minister.   Since Mary’s becoming deaf, a main focus of her ministry is informing congregations of faith about the prevalence and effects of adult hearing loss and consulting with them about appropriate and affordable hearing assistive technologies. Mary is married to Sheryl Butler, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister, and together they run www.journeyroad.org

I awoke on May 22, 2008, ready to leave the hospital after knee surgery. But something was wrong. I couldn’t hear.

(L) Mary Dyer (R) Sheryl Butler

Panicked, I rang a nurse to call my spouse Sheryl to come ASAP! As the day wore on, doctors trooped through, offering guarded opinions about my inexplicable deafness.

Home a week later, I hoped the steroids and antivirals might cure me. It soon became clear, however, I would be deaf for the rest of my life. I struggled with depression, fear, and by far the worst, isolation. For seven months everyone had to write out EVERYTHING they said to me. A true test of friendship!

I now have a cochlear implant, giving me some hearing: mostly face to face, without background noise.  Every time I go out I have to “come out” as deaf, asking people to repeat. I cannot go to non-captioned movies. I struggle with telephones. I miss nuances in conversations. (more…)

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Foothills Christian Church in Glendale, AZ has found a new way to promote itself and support its ministry.

Approximately a year ago, Pastor Erin Wathen was approached by a cell phone company, to see if the church would be interested in having a cell tower placed on its property.  The company said that they would be happy to pay for the construction of the tower, and to lease the space from the church.

The church was interested, and after talking through some of the details, the church accepted the offer.

As part of the process, the church and the cell company needed to select a design that fit the church and that would pass the city’s zoning codes.  In the past, the cell company had created a large plastic palm tree or giant cross at similar locations, but Foothills felt like the design didn’t match the look of their facility.  Instead, working with the church, the company designed the cell tower to look like a bell tower (see picture), and when presented to the county’s assessor, the assessor commented that, “it was the best design he’d seen.”

Cell Tower

Church's Cell Tower

Soon after approval, construction began, and so did the growing awareness of the church in the community.

“It was great,” says Pastor Wathen, “because it increased our visibility in the community (more…)

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