Donors want to give, members want to renew memberships, but sometimes they cannot. It can be a real problem for an organization, which may have spent a lot of money and energy in development, but then, somehow it doesn’t receive the funds.  What could be the problem?  It’s on the details… Below are a couple of details to pay attention to:

Detail 1-- Links should work

Recently, I received an invoice as an attachment to a nice email. All was well done and professional, until I clicked on the link for online payment. Then, I was taken to an error page on the nonprofit website.  Not nice.  Now it’s up to me to figure out how to pay the organization. Do I look around the website for a link? Write a check?  Maybe leave this alone for now...and the organization may never see any donation or membership payment. Some prospective donors may never contact the nonprofit with this issue, and the bad link detail will go on undetected.

*** Pointer --  Check regularly on the invoice or email master text to make sure it’s still valid.  Usually, changing  only one invoice or email  doesn’t work well, since most systems use a master file that populates all the communications with donors.

Detail 2 – Take information over the phone easily

Have everybody in the organization trained in handling payments over the phone. Not just accounting folks. All the information and forms should be easily accessible and ready to be used, including online forms. When donors or others call to make a payment, get it done. This may be easier said than done. I have seen people transfer payers from one person to another– don’t do that. Don’t frustrate the person on the other end of the line.  Everyone should know how to handle the calls, help and get any payment.

***Pointer -- The nonprofit could have a phone setup for people who wants to pay, so that they can do it easily. The message could be,  “If you want to make a donation or a payment, please press 1 and someone will get the information right away.”

Nonprofits are competing with other organizations for every cent they get. Sometimes the day-to-day activities cloud the importance of making donations easy and stress free. Sorry, but if I’m put on hold for a bit too long or get attitude or cluelessness, I hang up and give my money to someone else. So it’s important to make donating an easy, pleasant experience, not one where donors get error messages on the computer or an aggravating phone person. Details matter.

See more here Volunteers:  Catch them and keep them
Check out 'Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide"

Volunteers are often the heart of an organization. Many nonprofits rely on volunteers for daily activities, special events and projects. Some grantors may even consider volunteer work as matching contributions, highlighting the real value of donating time and energy to a cause. However, volunteering is declining. According to the US Bureau Labor of Statistics, “the volunteer rate declined by 0.4 percentage point to 24.9 percent for the year ending in September 2015.”

This is not good news since millions of people volunteer and a 0.4 percentage point is a lot of opportunities lost. Considering that women volunteer the most and their involvement has decreased from 28.3% in 2014 to 27.8% in 2015, this is a worrisome trend. If it continues, organizations may have to cut down in programs or offer fewer services. Yikes.

People, including women, in general are just too busy with jobs, families and other responsibilities. Working overtime is the norm and many are simply exhausted to consider adding volunteering to the mix.  So, what can nonprofits do to keep good volunteers?

1- Consider short, one-time opportunities. Many people will be willing to donate a day or two a year or a few hours a month or quarter. It doesn’t seem overwhelming. To accomplish this, nonprofits that rely on volunteers for daily activities should consider having special days where new people come in only on those days and do certain things, giving others a break.

For example, you could have Wednesdays as reading days only and whoever is interested in this activity could show up once a week only. Volunteers could rotate that date, so that every Wednesday someone new could show up.  Don't burden certain people too much -- people can burn out.

2- Divide tasks into smaller chunks. Depending on the situation, this could be fewer hours or a process that could be divided into two or three. The idea is to give people more options with the time and resources they have available.  This also brings some variety to the volunteers, who may have more tasks available.

For instance, volunteers at a clinic could work a couple of hours only a week or could handle the front desk only, while others could accompany patients to their rooms. The challenge here is to coordinate the tasks well to avoid confusion and give people what they want -- some volunteers prefer working in a certain task only, while others prefer more variety.

3- Let them shine and don’t forget social activities. All volunteers should be recognized and mentioned in publications and public announcements. Let them show off – share with others a special talent or accomplishment of volunteers. Present a great photo someone took, take it to the social media and make sure everyone is showcased or mentioned, for instance.

It’s also important to allow for many social occasions. Many volunteers are in the workforce full or part time and many come in not only to do good, and also to meet others for networking or for social interactions with like-minded folks. If volunteers only come in, do their parts and go home, they may not be back that many times. People need to engage with one another, if they are to engage with a nonprofit long term.

4- Treat volunteers very well. This basic principle seems to get lost somehow. If you don’t treat volunteers well, actually spoil them, they will not stay. They are not employees and many don’t appreciate to be bossed around and to be put down. I have seen this happening, and frankly, I don’t get it -- people are working for free, be appreciative and note that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Maybe volunteers should be moved around or maybe they are not a good fit, so do what it needs to be done in a compassionate way. People talk.

I know of a lady who volunteered for years at a thrift shop. She loved it, until a new manager came along and started to put her down, aggravate her, and she finally left the volunteer work. It was not worth her time anymore. Don’t do this. Spoil, value your volunteers and you cannot go wrong. If you see people leaving a certain volunteer job or you notice a higher turnover, check who is in charge and see if you can help that person keep the volunteers happy.

Your nonprofit received $80,000 in income last year.  Do you have to file the 990EZ or the 990 instead of the 990-N? Not necessarily.  You may still be able to file the 990-N, the electronic filing that requires only minimum information from the nonprofit.  There is hope out there.

Note the IRS language about nonprofit filing:

 “Most small tax-exempt organizations whose annual gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less can satisfy their annual reporting requirement by electronically submitting Form 990-N if they choose not to file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ instead.” 

The term “gross receipts” means all money received with no expenses. Regarding the “normally $50,000”,

“To determine whether an organization's gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less, apply the following test. An organization's gross receipts are considered normally to be $50,000 or less if the organization is:

1.     Up to a year old and has received, or donors have pledged to give, $75,000 or less during its first tax year;

2.     Between 1 and 3 years old and averaged $60,000 or less in gross receipts during each of its first 2 tax years; or

3.     Three years old or more and averaged $50,000 or less in gross receipts for the immediately preceding 3 tax years (including the year for which the return would be filed).”

So, your organization may still file the 990-N, which is significantly easier than the 990EZ or the 990 if it falls within these three tests.  The key is how the IRS defines “normally”.  For older nonprofits, the average test may work out. For example, if the organization has $80,000 in income in 2015, but has $20,000 and $30,000 in prior years, averaging out #43,333, still below $50,000 --  you can still file the 990-N and do a happy dance!

See more here Measuring Program Success
Check out 'Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide"