THE NEW YORK COUNCIL OF NONPROFITS: SERVICES AND RESOURCES TO BOOST YOUR BOTTOM LINE

By James D’Ambrosio

JamesProfile1TwitterThroughout my career, I’ve sought information and presented new ideas to management and colleagues to help organizations move forward. In the charitable sector, The New York Council of Nonprofits is a resource I believe can benefit agencies. NYCON, a 501 (C)(3) statewide association whose mission is to increase the capacity of nonprofits and enhance the quality of life in New York State, has 3,200+ members and offers many professional services and programs agencies can draw on. This is of particular importance for start-ups and nonprofits with limited resources. Headquartered in Albany, there are regional offices in New York City, Poughkeepsie, Oneonta and Rochester.

PROGRAMS AND MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION

The following is a sampling of offerings available from NYCON:

♦ CONSULT WITH EXPERTS: Get advice and assistance from nonprofit experts in the areas of finance, governance, legal, marketing, human resources, benefits, risk management, etc., by phone or e-mail. Services are free with a corporate membership.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE: Access to quality, affordable technical assistance. NYCON works with agencies on issues such as board governance, fiscal procedures, budgeting, personnel policies, bylaws, compliance issues, collaborations, and more. Tailored to individual needs, most services begin at $95 an hour.

♦ EMPLOYEE BENEFITS: Through Council Services Plus, an insurance subsidiary, NYCON provides information and products and services helping nonprofits develop an affordable benefits program for employees.

TRAINING, EDUCATION & CONFERENCES: A recent NYCON survey indicated that workshops, trainings and events were rated as one of the top benefits. Members receive significant discounts and can apply for scholarships to attend conferences.

AFFORDABLE MEMBERSHIP: Membership fees are scaled to operating budgets: Organizations under $50,000 pay $60 per year; those with budgets from $1,000,000 – $1,999,999 pay $160; and agencies with budgets exceeding $10,000,000 pay $460 (there’s additional brackets in-between). According to the Council, the average nonprofit member pays $110. In addition, individuals can join as a Citizen Member for $75 (I’m a Citizen Member.) Benefits for individuals include a bi-monthly e-mail newsletter, discounted rates for trainings and workshops, free copies of select publications, voting privileges at the Annual Meeting, networking opportunities and more. (Note: membership follows the calendar year, January-December.)

GROUP PURCHASING PROGRAMS: Group purchasing programs are available for office supplies, payroll, conference calling, fund-raising software, technology assistance and more, with potential significant cost savings. Click here to see a comprehensive listing.

A FINAL WORD

While NYCON can work with all nonprofits in New York State, only members receive discounted rates and benefits. Given the many challenges facing nonprofits today, I present this information for those who may not be aware of this resource. For organizations outside New York, the NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NONPROFITS provides contact information for 36 state associations throughout the U.S. VIEW THE LIST HERE.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NYCON

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QUESTIONS TO READERS:

A) If you’re a NYCON member, how has your agency benefitted?

B) If you’re not a member, would you consider joining?

 

SAVE MONEY, BOOST MORALE WITH AN EMPLOYEE SUGGESTION PROGRAM

By James D’Ambrosio

In this challenging economy, many agencies are looking to save money and improve the bottom line. While managers can look to traditional areas for savings — personnel, insurance, benefits, etc. — there are other ways it can be accomplished. A well-run employee suggestion program can save money, improve operations and empower staff — a three-fold benefit. The key is ‘well-run,’ which I’ll address shortly.

EMPLOYEE SUGGESTION PROGRAM — AN EXAMPLE

While program structure can vary, typically, staff submit money-saving ideas to management which are then reviewed for viability. The best idea(s) are adopted and the employee receives a financial reward. Years ago, prior to e-mail and Internet and working at a large federal agency, a winning suggestion was stapling a sheet of paper over the used spaces of inter-office envelopes, extending their life. A simple yet effective idea for an organization with a large volume of mail.

DEVELOPMENT & IMPLEMENTATION

The key to a successful program is proper planning, clear policies and effective communication. Here’s some ways to get started: 

A) PLANNING: Begin by forming a committee or having a staff member develop an outline considering these issues: a) How often will it run? b) What criteria will be used to evaluate ideas? c) Who will implement and monitor the program? d) What will be the size of awards? e) How will ideas be submitted? f) Who will review suggestions and decide winners? Formality and structure will vary based on agency size and resources.

B) ROLL OUT TO STAFF: When details are finalized, introduce the program to staff through inter-office memo, flier, e-mail, etc. Clearly describe how it will run and the reasons for it, i.e., saving money and improving operations. Emphasize employee suggestions are valued and encouraged. A sincere, well-crafted message adds credibility and helps create buy-in. If people view your initiative as genuine, they’re more likely to participate. 

C) STRIVE FOR FAIRNESS: Consider more frequent contests with smaller awards, creating more opportunities for people to win; limiting how often the same person can win helps ensure fairness. You want staff to believe they have a reasonable chance. If it’s seen as a longshot, people may not bother.

D) PUBLICIZE WINNING ENTRIES: Let everyone know, through whatever method you choose, who submitted the winning entry and why it was chosen. This is important: Office politics and rumors can undermine efforts. Clear, consistent communication can prevent this.

E) THANK ALL ENTRANTS: Provide feedback to everyone participating in each contest. Thank entrants for their efforts and encourage future submissions. People appreciate it when their ideas are validated. It also builds goodwill.       

NONPROFIT PERSPECTIVE

Beyond cost savings, a good program can boost morale if people believe management values their input and shares decision-making. Additionally, since nonprofits arguably attract greater numbers of thinking individuals with a purpose (at least in some cases) why not tap that intellect? 

Consider the above a starting point, as a detailed blueprint is beyond the scope of this column. The focus is presenting an idea to help increase organizational effectiveness.     

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QUESTIONS TO READERS:

A) What has been your experience with employee suggestion programs? 

B) Anything you’d like to add?

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