Money is usually tight for non-profits. Unless you’re a huge national name, backed by celebrity endorsements, or have a super kind benefactor, you’re probably pinching pennies like the rest of us commoners.

Whereas soccer moms like me can cut coupons, scan for online deals and make freezer meals to keep our budgets in tact, non-profits often have a hard time knowing when or where to cut corners because their budgets depend on grants, donations, tax exemptions and the like. And these things change yearly so standardizing a budget is difficult, too.

 Sure, there are creative options to help non-profits trim costs:

  • Unpaid interns – some colleges even require their students to complete internships in order to graduate
  • Trade swaps – would you waive your cat adoption fee if a professional would write your newsletter?
  • Auctions – you can get your hands on some top quality furniture and office supplies at a fraction of the cost

 If your non-profit hasn’t already done so, you need to start planning your fiscal layout for 2015. Here are four top priorities you don’t want to skimp:

Digitize – Public relations, media coverage and community outreach can help make or break a non-profit agency. But why put a chunk of change toward snail mailing these things? Sign up for a free email service like Constant Contact or MailChimp to handle your digital communication. It also might be worth decreasing the amount of money you spend on brochures, pamphlets and other hard copy items and increasing the quality of your website and its exposure through online ads and buzz marketing via established bloggers.

Board of Directors – You know how financial advisors always tell you to diversify your portfolio? Well, you want to do the exact same thing with your board. Although it might be tempting to go with the typical movers and shakers in your area (or industry), it’s vital that you enlist the guidance of people who are players in a variety of backgrounds. Why? So you can ask these people for hookups, connections, freebies, and other opportunities that you otherwise might have to shell out for. Here are some types of people who might do your non-profit board some good:

  • Local television reporter – These are the journalists who are out covering beats and interviewing and interacting with people in the community on a daily basis. Anchors might be more high profile, but beat reporters have a better idea of what’s really making the neighbors take notice.
  • Hair stylist – Think of how many women and men pass through a hair stylist’s chair every week. Even better, it’s a captive audience! For an hour, your hair stylist can engage them in small talk but then also make sure he or she talks about the cool non-profit in town doing amazing work.
  • Student Body President – High school or college, it doesn’t matter. This person knows what young people care about and, more importantly, how to engage them. You definitely want to have Tracy Flick on your board when the call for more volunteers goes out.

 The idea here is to create a built-in resource tool that doesn’t cost you a thing.

Inventory – How much time does it take for your staffers to perform given tasks? Are they concentrating on what they do best? Or what they love best? Do they feel their department is being run efficiently? What do they think your non-profit does really well? What organizational changes do they recommend? Asking these questions and more will help you gauge how efficiently your non-profit is being run and if your employees are happy with the set up. Best of all, you can create a survey for free and the ideas you hear might save you a pile of cash later on.

Screening – Building a reputation as a solid and reliable non-profit who is a good steward of the community takes time, years even. You don’t want a single act or misstep ruining all your hard work. That’s why it’s imperative that background screening is ALWAYS a top earmark in your budget. Not just for applicants and employees, either, we’re talking volunteers, too. Call us crazy but we’d rather see you protected rather than pummeled in the news, which would surely happen if someone with a wonky record slipped through the cracks. If it happened to these guys, it could certainly happen to you.

 Active Screening has a series of background screening solutions that non-profits can tailor to meet their needs. If the bulk of your volunteers will be driving, perhaps you’d want to enlist our Driver’s Records search. If they might be dispatched to work overseas, you should check out our Global Solutions. Active Screening believes in the power of non-profits to promote good in our world, and we want to help you succeed. Give us a call today at 1-888-319-5580.

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