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"Info. & Referral Program" Blog Posts Answer "WIIFM?"

Heard about the Statewide Nonprofit Resource Directory or our Information & Referral (I&R) Program, but still not sure "What's in it for me (WIIFM)"? Read on!

NPower Northwest invited 501 Commons to write for their blog, particularly on our I&R Program. We'll continue to share these guest posts here as they happen.

It's Not What You Know, But Where You Look That Matters

April 10, 2012

If there’s one thing that ties nonprofit-sector “newcomers” with those more experienced, it’s the learning curve. Board members, staff people, even those that arrive with years of private-sector experience, all share the need to get up-to-speed on the uniqueness of the sector. It simply takes time to learn and understand.

When starting out, the focus tends to be on bylaws, fundraising strategies, and other requirements, like financial reporting. Soon, attention shifts to evaluation, human resources, and even marketing. Over time, organizational and leadership development emerge as areas to address. And, throughout it all, there’s the issue of board roles and responsibilities.

Are there other topics to grasp? Plenty! Is it humanly possible for anyone to know all of the “best practices” and tools and templates of the trade? Unlikely at best.

Thankfully, for whatever the issue-at-hand, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel or spend hours tracking it down. 501 Commons, through the Statewide Nonprofit Resource Directory, has curated some of the best in the business. With over 20 categories and countless more subcategories, the list of resources is too long to include. But here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:

  • NPower’s Social Media Audit
  • CompassPoint’s Internal Controls Checklist
  • United Way of King County’s Board Composition Analysis Template
  • Independent Sector’s Basics of Nonprofit Advocacy
  • WAACO’s Nonprofit Legal Self-Assessment Checklist
  • 501 Commons’ Volunteer Management Resources
  • And many, many more…including some that are in the works!

No matter where you are on the learning curve, you’re still learning. So it pays to be ready for that next challenge before it comes up. When it does, use the Directory’s search function or visit the Tools and Best Practices for Nonprofits page to meet your information needs.

And, as always, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, let me know (matt@501commons.org, 206-682-6704). We’re here to help.

- Matt Fikejs, Information & Referral Program Manager, 501 Commons

A Search Engine Designed for Nonprofit Needs?

February 13, 2012

In the age of Internet search engines, what could be simpler than typing in the services your nonprofit needs and combing the results? The problem is, with traditional search engines, the results can be overwhelming or biased toward those that appear on the first page. Worse, what you’re really looking for may not be there at all or buried so far down the list that you never see it. And then there’s the issue of quality. When it comes to consultants and other service providers that appear, what would their clients say about them?

All due respect to Bing, Google, and others, there’s a better way to find nonprofit resources and referrals, especially here in Washington State. 501 Commons’ Statewide Nonprofit Resource Directory takes the hunt for nonprofit help to a whole new level with a nonprofit topic-based search tool and webpages specific to nonprofit issues. We also require that listed providers who offer consulting services or products have at least three years experience serving nonprofits and come recommended by at least three nonprofit clients. And we do reference checks to ensure this standard.

In future posts, I’ll describe the carefully curated resources and original content you can find through the Directory. Today, though, the focus is on the many types of nonprofit specialists who are listed…that is, approved, then listed:

  • Consultants and consulting firms, like fundraisers and accountants
  • Other providers/companies, such as graphic designers and technology services
  • Nonprofit capacity-building organizations (e.g., NPower Northwest)
  • Associations, networks, and volunteer centers
  • Educational programs and resource centers

So the next time you’re looking for help from experienced, skilled, and recommended service providers – or seeking valuable online resources – start with the Directory. Better yet, bookmark it now and jot down my contact info (matt@501commons.org, 206-682-6704) in case you still have questions.

We all know that time is precious and time is money. Here’s to quick and successful searches!

- Matt Fikejs, Information & Referral Program Manager, 501 Commons

Creating Happy Endings for an All-Too-Common Nonprofit Story

December 12, 2011

Once upon a time, a nonprofit staff member got stumped in their job, but didn’t know where outside of their organization to turn. Ever happened to you? If so, you’re in good company. The reality is, this “story” plays out everyday and across the state for countless colleagues. Knowing this, you start to see why a central place for information and referrals is so important to our state’s nonprofit sector.

A late 2009 Giving Practice report – funded by seven Northwest foundations – came to the same conclusion. It found that “One of the essential [nonprofit] ecosystem elements is a trusted source of information and referral to capacity-building services. None of the [WA State] community hubs we looked at had such a system, and it was mentioned as a high priority in King County in particular.”

Recognizing the need, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, The Seattle Foundation, and Social Venture Partners stepped up to back 501 Commons’ Statewide Nonprofit Resource Directory. Launched earlier this year, the online Directory connects you with:

  • Approved consultants and other service providers who specialize in nonprofits, like NPower Northwest
  • Tools & best practices
  • “Best of the web” links
  • Featured events
  • Statewide map of discounted venues

In future posts, I’ll hone in on different aspects of the Directory and how they can help you do your job more effectively. For now, remember: You have a “first stop” for questions. Save yourself time by starting your search with the Directory.

Still stumped? Then email me (matt@501commons.org) or give us a call (206-682-6704). Over the years, we’ve done at least 1,500 projects with Washington State nonprofits, schools, and government agencies and have pretty much seen it all. Chances are we'll have an idea of where to turn next.

- Matt Fikejs, Information & Referral Program Manager, 501 Commons