Aspiration News

NOSI Salon at the SF Nonprofit Technology Center

The Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI) is gearing up for a new phase of activity, and they are hosting a series of salons to hear what nonprofit users are thinking about open source software and its role in the nonprofit sector. In what ways is the connection working? How is it not? What kinds of new ideas and resources are needed? They're also looking to start conversations on how to get nonprofits involved in the open source community. How does NOSI foster open source development in the nonprofit sector? How do they educate nonprofit technology staff and consultants on the ethos of open source software, not just its practical applications?

Michelle Murrain of NOSI and Allen Gunn of Aspiration will co-host the salon, and anyone interested in open source for nonprofits is invited to bring your ideas and passions for open source. Snacks and beverages will be provided. We'll be meeting at The San Francisco Nonprofit Technology Center located at 1370 Mission St. 4th Floor, in San Francisco, from 5:30-7:00 pm on December 11th. Please come by, and lend us your ideas, and tell us what you think NOSI should be tackling in the next year.

And if you can't come to the Salon, check out the newly updated NOSI website and leave comments!

Wireless for Everyone

After attending NTEN's event-"No Strings Attached: How Municipal Wireless will change the way you create social change." I was reminded of the time that I was working at my previous nonprofit and my IT consultant helped me install a router that gave us the ability to have wireless throughout the entire office. This was a huge deal for us to get wireless!

Imagine this on a much larger scale--wireless that everyone can access. The folks at San Francisco Tech Connect are trying to create city wide wireless here in SF. How does this relate to Nonprofit Operations? Imagine all the things that nonprofits will be able to do with city wide wireless.

Security Culture at my Nonprofit

I was shredding some documents in the office yesterday, and Aspiration's Director, Allen, over heard me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was shredding.  He then asked if I was going to blog about my shredding and suggested that I blog about Aspiration's security procedures. Funny that he suggested this topic considering the Brown Bag Lunch discussion I will be hosting in a couple of weeks is about Risk Management.

So, this blog post is dedicated to Allen Gunn who taught me a lot about security culture. 

Here is a glimpse of Aspiration's security culture. All of our security culture procedures are listed in our Operations Manual.

Nonprofit Operations Brown Bag Lunch- Risk Management

Join Aspiration's Assistant Director, Heather Carpenter for an interactive Nonprofit Operations Brown Bag Lunch discussion about best practices for Risk Management.

Come learn and share best practices for Risk Management and receive Risk Management documents and templates.  Tell us what you want to discuss--Creating a Risk Management Plan, Preparing for Disaster, Preparing for an Office Move, Workplace Safety, or other Risk Management topics.

I Love Nonprofit Operations Resources

So when I first started this blog, I posted just a few of the nonprofit operations resources/useful links that I have been collecting. Here are a couple more.

A great nonprofit operations focused blog I just started reading: Nonprofit Accounting Boot Camp, written by Alan from the California Association of Nonprofits, most recent post is about the great nonprofit legal resources and links available on the National Economic and Development Law Center's website.

Nonprofit Operations Brown Bag Lunch-Risk Management

Join us for an interactive Nonprofit Operations Brown Bag Lunch discussion about best practices for Risk Management.

Come learn and share best practices for Risk Management and receive Risk Management documents and templates.  Tell us what you want to discuss--Creating a Risk Management Plan, Preparing for Disaster, Preparing for an Office Move, Workplace Safety, or other Risk Management topics.

This Brown Bag lunch discussion will take place on Wednesday, November 29th from 12-1 PM at the San Francisco Nonprofit Technology Center, 1370 Mission St., 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103. Map link. Questions/Topic Suggestions 415-839-6456.

FLOSS Usability Sprint III

Event Date(s): 
October 27, 2006 to October 29, 2006

Aspiration and Blue Oxen co-organized FLOSS Usability Sprint III, which took place October 27-29, 2006 at Google in Mountain View, California. Many thanks to Leslie Hawthorn, Rick Boardman and Google for hosting the event!

Programmers, usability practitioners, project managers, and users gathered to discuss methodologies for improving the usability of Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) and to apply those processes towards specific projects. The goals were two-fold: To improve the usability of the participating projects, and to catalyze greater shared understanding and ongoing collaboration between the usability and open source communities. Aspiration’s own Social Source Commons platform was one of the focal projects, along with Drupal, HyperScope, Socialtext Open and Sustainable Civil Society.

For complete info about the proceedings see www.flossusability.org. To see pictures from the event click here.

Board Meeting Preparation

I am in the process of preparing for Aspiration's December board meeting. One thing I am working on is the Board Binder. This binder contains helpful information about Aspiration for the board members to keep and bring to each board meeting.

Contents include:

  1. Articles of Incorporation
  2. Bylaws
  3. Board Member job description
  4. Board Roster
  5. Organizational Chart/Programmatic Chart
  6. Organizational Policies/Conflict of interest policy
  7. Organizational promotional materials
  8. Donation Form

The board will also be able to store board meeting minutes from past meetings and other helpful information in the binder.

I was interviewed by Blogher

I was recently interviewed by Beth Kanter, an amazing blogger who I really admire and respect. Beth is author of Beth's blog and contributing editor for Blogher. Thanks Beth!! 

What I'm learning about Fiscal Sponsorship for Nonprofits

I'm going to this workshop this afternoon at the Foundation Center about Fiscal Sponsorship. It seems like I have been spending the last couple of months thinking about Fiscal Sponsorship not only from the perspective of a nonprofit that provides Fiscal Sponsorship, but also looking at start-up nonprofits and what fiscal sponsorship means to them.  Here's what I've learned so far.

First, I learned that fiscal sponsorship is not something that nonprofits should just jump into quickly. When I came into Aspiration, we had a fiscal sponsorship agreement in place, however after working with my Attorney and reading the book, "Fiscal Sponsorship--6 Ways to Do It Right" by Gregory Colvin. I realized that we needed to have a stronger agreement with the new organizations we were sponsoring. We are what the book defines as Model C--"A Preapproved Grant Relationship" with the new organizations we sponsor. It took us a while to get all this figured out and we are still working to do this the right way.

2006 Dirk Award Winner - Vladimir "Kaladan" Petkov!

The Dirk Award Committee is honored to announce Vladimir Petkov as the 2006 winner of The Dirk Award!

Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants #16/17-General Nonprofit Management Advice

So I'm hosting the Blog Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants again this week and I received a lot of great posts this week about general nonprofit management advice. Here are the top seven.

1. In lieu of Hawaii's big earth quake over the weekend, I thought it fitting to start with Ken Goldstein from the Nonprofit Consultant's Blog very relevant post about Fundraising for a Disaster.

Also Nonprofit Branding seems to be a hot topic this week; here are a couple of posts that reflect this marketing tool that nonprofits can use.

Budgeting for Nonprofits

If your fiscal year is July-June then you already have your annual budget in place, however for those of us that have a fiscal year January-December the budgeting process has begun!

I have a 3 step method for preparing the annual budget for my organization.

1. I make a list of the staff for the organization and then I figure out how many hours each staff person will spend working on each program, as well as how much time they will spend on administration and fundraising time. I do this through conducting a time study--seeing how each staff member spends their time for one particular week, or by looking at staff time allocation from the previous year.

Brown Bag Lunch Discussion-Mass E-mail for Nonprofits

Wednesday we had the first nonprofit operations brown bag lunch discussion here at the Tech Center--which I think went really well.

The topic that everyone wanted to talk about was nonprofits sending out mass e-mails to their clients, constituents or donors. 

John Kenyon a technology consultant participated in the discussion and provided some helpful examples of affordable mass e-mail providers for nonprofits:

We also discussed how sending out mass e-mails by your regular e-mail provider is not recommended. The general progression that nonprofits seem to follow is, first they use a free e-mail service first like Google groups, then progress to something that costs $15-$20 a month, like Email now or NPO Groups, and then if the nonprofit wants additional features like a database then they choose something like CiviCRM or Democracy in Action.

California eAdvocacy Training Road Show II

Event Date(s): 
September 25, 2006 to September 28, 2006

Aspiration took its open eAdvocacy curriculum back on the road to nonprofits in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The two-day “Web Sites For Advocacy and Community Organizing: Basics, Essentials, and Best Practices” training covers web essentials, development process, design essentials, developing web strategy, as well as best practices for privacy, and security. The trainings were designed to enable grassroots nonprofits to learn effective process and tactics in using email in their campaigns and strategic work. The training materials have been prepared by Aspiration in partnership with Radical Designs, and funded by the Community Technology Foundation of California. All materials are being distributed under Creative Commons license.

Advanced Degrees for Nonprofit Professionals

Being a young nonprofit professional, I am very appreciative of the people and opportunities that have helped me to excel in my nonprofit career. One of those opportunities is earning my Masters of Management in Nonprofit Administration degree from North Park University in Chicago. This degree program taught me the skills needed to excel in my nonprofit operations jobs as well as opened the door to additional opportunities.

It is exciting to see how many recent college graduates are choosing to work in the nonprofit sector and also earn nonprofit management advanced degrees. 

Nonprofit Operations vs. Programs

Several folks have asked me to blog about Nonprofit Operations vs. programs. I will attempt to explain what I mean by Nonprofit Operations.

Nonprofit Operations is a broad term that I use to describe running the behind the scenes of a nonprofit.  These duties include, Administration, Finance, Fundraising, Human Resources, Risk Management, Marketing and more.  Nonprofit Operations is often the work that nonprofits' constituents or the general public do not see.

Nonprofit Operations and program administration are very intertwined. It is hard to run the behind the scenes of a nonprofit without doing some sort of program administration, for example, when I do all the logistical planning for an Aspiration event, I do both program and operations work.

Should my nonprofit do a Review or an Audit?

A common question that comes up for many nonprofits-Should my nonprofit do a review or an audit?

Since I just finished submitting Aspiration's financials to our accountant who will be filing our annual 990 tax return and conducting our annual review, I thought it would be a great time to answer that question.

A financial review is when an accountant asks the organization to submit a series of financial documents. The accountant then reviews those documents and presents the financial reports to the organization in which it is good practice for the Board of Directors to vote on the review presented by the accountant. Review’s generally cost $2-6k or less.

Aspiration Welcomes Timothy Wescott!

We are excited to have Timothy Wescott on board as our new Product Manager for Social Source Commons. Tim earned a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a double-major in Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2001. Tim has spent the past 5 years working for Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, where he designed and tested hardware and software for spacecraft.  He worked on several important projects at the lab including MESSENGER, New Horizons, and STEREO.

Travel Reimbursements for Nonprofit Staff

I just got back from traveling to Boston for work and reimbursements have been on my mind. I wanted to share a reimbursement practice that I learned from the last nonprofit I worked for.

It's often a hardship for nonprofit staff to pay out of pocket for expenses while traveling so we implemented a policy to provide staff a per diem while traveling on behalf of the organization.

To figure out the per diem rate we used the domestic per diem rates set forth by the U.S. General Service Administration. These rates are broken down by location/lodging/meals and incidentals. The map on the website makes it easy to find a location and per diem amount for that location.  

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