Grant Thornton Survey

The Grant Thornton Survey is conducted every two years, and from my take on the results non-profits are still facing the same issues as were indicated in the last survey results.

Smaller non-profits are still concerned about where they are at, where their money will come from.

And, again the issue of how organisations relate to their Board is also an ongoing concern (something I am concerned about – to me a Board should be more than a group of people who “”sign off” a Board should be active).

Read the full report here 

What are your concerns, issues … what needs to change? I’d be keen to know what your take is on where your organisation is now, and what you need to get it from where you are now to where you want it to be. Either leave a comment or email me



Changes are Afoot

​Non-Profits Being Hit

Seems that times are a changing for non-profits, we’ve heard recently that budgeting services have had funding cuts, now we’re hearing that other social agencies will have to ”disclose” details about the people they assit in order to maintain funding levels.

Some of the changes may not appear too bad, with some explanation being for the changes being that it is a way to help reduce operational, backroom costs; something that is perhaps needed. But is a heavy handed approach, as these changes seem to be, the way to go?

There’s no denying that there are duplication of services being provided within the non-profit sector, with each competing for a slice of the funding pie.

If there are several organisations working in the same space, it would make sense where possible for them to work closer to help reduce oerational costs. And, yes, there are organisations now working more closely to help reduce overall costs, but more could still be done.

When it comes to disclosure of client information, names, addresses, gender etc, this becomes worrying. 

With some organisations assisting vunerable people being asked to provide such personal information in order to gain or maintain funding it screams of Big Brother.

What’s wrong with the way things have done previously, a summary of clients assisted seems to have worked well. 

What will Government agencies use the personal information for?

How will clients, particularly those who are vulnerable, victims of crime etc react, will it cause some to not seek help out of fear of their personal information being misused (lost)?

Will your organisation be affected by these changes?

If you support organisations that maybe affected by these changes, will this have any impact on your continued support?

Questions need to be asked of Government agencies as to what are the REAL purposes of these changes?

Handing over the Reins

It’s interesting to see organisations grow from being something started at a kitchen table, to something substantial.

In growing though there is always a need to bring in others with more expertise, more experience; but in doing so there is fear of the loss of control.

I recall reading about a charity, I think in the States, where the founder who took on a manger; but with the charity operating in an adjacent building to where the founder lived, he would turn up everyday and staff were unsure as to who they should be listening to the new manager or the founder.

I’ve seen similar happen closer to home, and unless those passing on the reins make an effort to stand back and let the new guard run the organisation, chaos is likely to ensue.

If you are running an organisation and the time has come for you to stand aside, do it. This should all be part of your succession planning; and all staff when the new people at the helm arrive should feel confident that the organisation is in safe hands.

If the old guard remains it is likely to only case confusion, weakened trust in the new guard and, the focus of what the organisation is there for will be lost, opportunities could be missed and the beneficiaries of the organisation will ultimately suffer.

The new manager needs to know they can get on with what they have been appointed to do, this won’t happen quickly or smoothly if the old guard is always ‘hovering’ around, staff will remain confused and if allocated new tasks, if systems change they may feel as though they are betraying their former ”boss”.

Change isn’t always easy, it’s not easy on those standing aside and it’s not easy on the new people. But change sometimes has to happen and the more planning for it the better.

Your Board – Investors in Your Organisation

I’ve talked before about having your board onboard; and have thought from time-to-time about whether boards are truly invested in the work of the organisation.

When thinking about board members and their investment in organisations; one thing that I’ve often wondered is how many are on the board of more than one organisation and whether this truly works.

Another thought has been about whether board members financially contribute to the organisation, sure – many do by attending events etc; but do they donate to your cause more than they donate to others?

So finding “My ONE Wish For Boards – the Secret Revealed” on Asking Matters made me realise I’m certainly not the only one who thinks along these lines.

Have a read and see what you think …

My ONE Wish for Boards – the Secret Revealed

For 15 years now, I’ve harbored a secret wish. My one wish for the non-profit world. Here it is.

If I could snap my fingers and make one change in our community, it would be to have every board member sit on one board only… and give 75% of his or her charitable gifts to that board. I can dream, can’t I?! 

Here are the impacts that would have:

Board members would feel like investors.

We talk about how to encourage our board members to truly feel vested in our organizations, yet how can they when their attention and their giving is so broadly focused? If one of your board members gives $10,000 to charity and gives $2,500 of that to you, that’s a solid gift. Now imagine if that board member gives $7,500 to you. That would be quite an investment, and I can guarantee that this board member would then be laser-focused on helping your organization succeed.

Board members could stop the painful quid-pro-quo fundraising.

What a gift that would be! Can you imagine how much negative energy would be avoided? I’ve never met a board member who likes all that quid-pro-quo fundraising – every gift to your organization means a gift he or she makes to someone else’s. And then your organization has all these gifts from people who don’t care about you and don’t want to be cultivated…and will never have a direct relationship to your organization.

Read the full article here

Problem Boards or Board Problem?

We’ve probably had that feeling that there’s an issue with the Board of an organisation, perhaps we’ve become frustrated that the Board just aren’t getting it …

The following paper from is well worth the time to read, it covers things like “underperforming boards are the norm, not the exception,” that sometimes the Board of an organisation sees itself as a legal need, making the role mundane, having a sense of a lack of purpose.

Rather than dissect the paper, click here and download and read it for yourself. I’m sure you will have a few light bulb moments about your Board, or a Board of an organisation you may have had some dealings with.

To Collaborate or Not

With the abundance of charities in New Zealand, with many working in the same area, providing the same or similar services, should more be collaborating?

Perhaps organisations can work with each other more to not only potentially deliver more services, to more people, but in doing so help reduce each others overheads.

There are situations where organisations will work with each other to avoid a clash of appeal timing and, yes, there are sector bodies who oversee and help co-ordinate certain public appeals; but could more be done?

If more organisations worked closer together the sector itself perhaps might be in a better shape, supporters may feel their support, their funds are being used in a better way.

I’ve spoken with some in the sector who think they would be in better position if they collaborated more but, they’re reluctant to pursue it as they fear losing control of their organisation, that they may lose public appeal for what they are doing. This can likely be easily allayed by having at the outset of any collaborative endeavour organisations simply have to have ground rules to which they agree and will stick to.

Often organisations struggle to source information, gain participation and shift public perception of an issue; often expending vast sums of money, on things other organisations are also trying to do; through collaboration this can be avoided, and focus can go back to the core activities of organisations.

One area where organization can be better of through collaboration is the sharing of skills, experience and administrative tasks; imagine if you had a few organisation working together in a single space; they could not only share skills but the expense of the admin and related overheads, leaving more funds available to carry-out the work they are there to do.

Look at how places have been established for business to share space, equipment at overhead costs, this has enabled them to grow and share knowledge. If commercial entities can do it, why can’t organisations in the charitable sector?

I’ve often quoted something a manager of mine told me years ago “competition without out opposition” – and that’s what collaboration can be.

Would, or does your organisation collaborate with others in the sector, if so how has this enabled you to better carry out the work you do, have you seen any improvements in the quality of your service offering?

If you support charities, would you like to see more collaboration between organisations, particularly those working in the same space?

Staff Morale – Is it a reflection on the Organisation?

When was the last time you took a helicopter view of your organisation, taking particular look at your staff?

The way staff interact with each other, the way they speak about the organisation can indicate how they feel about the organisation. Not their job, but about the organisation as a whole.

Staff who don’t speak highly of the organisation may have reasons for this, are they feeling under valued, have they been passed over for promotion?

It is important to look at the picture your staff are painting, if they’re painting an unfavourable picture about the organisation and sharing this with colleagues; they could be “poisoning” others and, there’s also the risk that they’re sharing this outside of work.

If staff are poisoning others, it won’t be long before their negativity rubs off on others, the sooner you spot something and act the better.

Unless you’re in touch with how staff are feeling you’re lost in the dark, you need to be speaking with your staff to hear their views, their opinions about their job, their worth within the organisation and, their overall view about the organisation and the work being it does.

If you’re staff are at the front of the organisation, it may be more important to be listening to what they have to say, if they’re feeling disenfranchised this could come across in their interactions with those they deal with – potentially negatively impacting on service delivery and funding opportunities.

When new staff join an organisation, if there is negativity among staff this can have a detrimental effect on the way new staff interact and perform in their role. If they’re feeling “out of place”, feeling as though they’ve made the wrong choice, it could impact on the employment costs of the organisation; and could even result in action in employment court.

Many companies and, organisations conduct regular performance reviews which is important, however unless these are a two-way process they can miss opportunities, miss indications of low morale in the staff.

Staff reviews should be conducted at least annually, some are conducted every six months; but as a rule, don’t conduct them less than once each year.

And, in between – always – keep an eye and ear out for what staff are saying.

What they are saying could be just what you hear to make changes you’ve been pondering, even negative comments can create valuable opportunities for an organisation to grow and flourish.

Do you conduct staff reviews, if so has there been anything come to light from these that has helped your organisation grow and perhaps change they way things were done?

What gems have you learned from staff reviews?

Ask yourself these questions – would you support you?

It’s always interesting to hear people talk about community organizations and how they don’t appeal to them, it could be the cause or it could be the impression the organization gives the public; does your organization have sex appeal, the wow factor or is it simply sitting their chugging along.

Grab yourself a cuppa, pen and paper and answer these questions about your organization, based on what the public sees of you – your website, the message you give about the work you do:

  • Would you give to your organization?
  • Would you volunteer for your organization?
  • Would you want to work for your organization?
  • Is what we stand for clear, is it easy for people to see what we do?
  • Are we seen as trustful?
  • Are we committed to what we do?
  • Have we made a difference?
  • What can we do better to gain more support/awareness?
What did you come up with, are there things about your public face you will/must change, and how will you go about it, what time frame will you set yourself for any changes?

This is a good exercise to do from time to time – do it again in a few months to see if you come up with different answers to what you came up with today.

Won’t support local causes

“We won’t support New Zealand charities, our support can do more good overseas”

“We don’t know why we should support New Zealand charities, none have given us any real reason to support them”

These are two comments I’ve heard recently, and I’m now wondering how widespread these views are.

There’s the old saying that charity begins at home, but unless people feel there is a real need to support local causes they won’t, instead they’ll support those that they see and hear about more often, the one’s they perceive as doing greater good, and in all honesty if someone choses to support a cause outside of their country it is their right, we can’t and shouldn’t judge them for it.

We can’t judge people for their choice, we need instead to look at how local causes can better get their message across that they need help from the local community. 

Local causes, those who work in the country often don’t have the ability to run large scale campaigns to raise awareness or aren’t on the radar of media like the big international ones are – the larger ones have the means to keep their message out there, to tell their stories, to show what impact a few dollars could have helping others.

There are many local causes who are doing great things in the country, but unless they have the means to get their stories heard – they will be under the radar. 

No, this is not a beat up of local causes, quite the reverse.

We live in a global community, the world is one – whether you’re in New Zealand, Australia, USA, Asia, the UK – we are all part of the one community – the global community.

The choice to support a cause is a very personal one – and there’s no way I or anyone can tell people who they should or shouldn’t support.

Often people have said – why should I support XYZ, it’s the Governments responsibility – sure, in some respects this is right.
However, there’s a downside to that. If any Government were to channel funds to causes like some would suggest, where would they draw the line, how would it be funded, what would suffer as a result – the Government, any Government doesn’t have an endless supply of money. Ok, maybe they do – our taxes, but taxes only go so far, would you want a higher tax rate so as to enable your Government to support everyone? 

By giving to causes you’re helping – you don’t have to be contributing huge amounts, a little can go a long way; and every contribution does help.

Organizations need to find a way to communicate at a local level, sure there’s a resource issue, but by tapping into current supporters to help build a supporter base is one step that could be taken; who better to help get others on board than those already on board.

So, when are you going to start using your current supporters, your board to help grow your supporter base; to show those in your local area that their support is needed – that without them you can’t do what you’re doing?

See also


Quick guide to better funding applications

After hearing from organizations about their failed funding applications, I had a look through some, talked to those who had put them together and quickly saw want went wrong. Lack of research and planning.

To save time and the heartache of receiving “sorry not this time” letters avoid these mistakes:

Poorly researched and written applications

Before putting the time into completing the application spend some time reading what the funders criteria is, do some research (if possible) into what other projects they have funded.

Simply pulling out an application you’ve submitted before and copying the information into a new one won’t cut it; more so if you missed out last time.

Ensure your have clear objectives, and ideally everyone involved in the project should be asked for their input.

Perhaps more important is to ensure you have fully planned out the project/programme you are applying for funding for; if you haven’t done this step, put the application away and spend the time planning.

Have you got the budgets sorted? If you haven’t done this – stop what you’re doing and get it sorted, you can’t expect a funder to guess what you’re trying to say with figures if you haven’t worked them out yourself.

And, avoid all jargon, you might know what certain acronyms are but you can almost guarantee that those reading your application won’t – do you want your application filed under “too hard”?

The scattergun approach

If you’re sending the same application out to a multitude of funders – stop it!

You will have more success with well planned and targeted applications, the right application for the right funder will win hands down over a poorly targeted one.

Yes, you might get a nibble or two with a mass mail out of applications, but you’ll gain more with targeted applications.

The right application, to the right funder will do you more good.

Not meeting funder’s criteria

This ties back to research and planning, if you don’t know what the funder’s criteria is, you won’t meet it.

When you’ve got your team together to work on funding applications, the first thing you should be doing is working through the funder’s criteria and ticking off each point – if you don’t meet the criteria save yourself and the funder time, don’t proceed with the application.

Most funders won’t mind if you’re unsure and make contact to clarify anything you’re unsure about. If in doubt, make contact and have the criteria clarified.

Meet and Greet

Some funders have open days, which are an opportunity for organizations to meet and learn more about the funder, their work, their criteria and what projects/programmes they are looking to fund. Make it your job to find out if funders you’re likely to approach hold these, if they do make sure you attend.

Some funders like it when an organization asks for the opportunity to meet – check, and if they are open to it, make the effort to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

You’ve got the funding – that’s the end of it

If you think that once you’ve received the funding that all you have to do is get down and do the work, you’re sadly wrong.

Funders want, expect – and deserve updates.

Your board expect updates – so you should already have something available, make sure you fully meet funders criteria and give them the reports, updates that they require.

If you don’t update funders your chances of winning their support in the future will at best diminish – or worse, you won’t even get a foot in the door.


These tips apply not only to traditional funding bodies, but also when applying for funding from companies and others in the community.

Write a check list of what you need to do with all funding applications – print it and pin it up on your wall and refer to it when applying for funding.