My experience/advice

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.  

Event Planning for Nonprofits

Another question that came up during my presentation at Craigslist boot camp was, "How do I find those event planning templates that you talk about during your 10 Nonprofit Operations Success Steps?" Well here they are...

Aspiration has become fairly well known in the nonprofit tech world for our unique event planning and facilitation methods. I think it helps that we have Allen Gunn a super and amazing facilitator leading our organization. (I'm not biased, really I'm not :) Anyway, we have created a set of event planning templates and materials so we can easily replicate our events. Nonprofits and Foundations even hire us to plan and facilitate events for them and its a lot of fun since we have streamlined the process.

Common Software Tools for Nonprofits

Yesterday I presented, "How to Improve your Nonprofit Operations in Under Two Months" at the Craigslist Foundation's Nonprofit Bootcamp.  It was a great event and in future blog posts I will share what I learned in the sessions that I attended.

I received a lot of questions during my session that I wasn't able to answer because I was pressed for time. One question that came up over and over again was, What are common software tools that nonprofits should be using for operations?

This is a tough question for me to answer because I don't want to offend any nonprofit software vendor for not using their tools. There are so many great tools out there! Also, because every nonprofit is different I think that every nonprofit needs to find the best software tools that work for them and go through a software selection process. I took at a variety of sources when choosing software like Idealware which provides nonprofit software reviews.

Three Human Resource Management Tips for Nonprofits

Here's an exerpt from my Nonprofit Operations Toolkit about three Human Resource steps I take in my nonprofit.

1. I keep the organizational personnel manual in compliance with state employment law.

2. I created procedures for hiring new employees, an orientation and training manual for new employees, and a step-by-step procedure for training those new employees.

3. I keep employment records up to date and created a procedure for the standard way information is stored in the employment files.

The items I track in the employment records include: employee attendance, disciplinary warnings, vacation requests, employment hiring forms, and benefit enrollment forms. 

This information comes in handy if an employee dispute arises or if I am called before the local Unemployment Insurance Board for a hearing.


Hire a Caterer or Not Hire a Caterer---That is the Question

I tend to work for nonprofits like Aspiration that do a lot of events for our constituents. Our goal for each event is to spend as little money as possible on the food by either getting it donated or ordering pizza instead of getting catering.

I found that in my past organizations, we spent a lot of time requesting food donations, doing food set up/clean up as well as errands to pick up things that we ran out of or forgot to get.

When I did the math, I found it was actually the same cost and sometimes cheaper for me to hire a caterer who takes care of all that stuff like set up and clean up. Now with all Aspiration events we hire a caterer. I usually pick one who charges between $15-$18 per person (including tax) for breakfast and lunch combined.

Now that I have the extra time that I don't have to focus on food purchasing or preparation, I focus my attention on the important aspects of the event like posting notes to the event Wiki like http://www.advocacydev.aspirationtech.org and contributing to the sessions.

Working with Vendors/Consultants/Contractors

I have worked with a lot of vendors/consultants/contractors ranging from Copy Machine vendors, phone/wiring vendors,  to accountants, web designers, and more. So I thought I'd write a post about 4 steps I follow when working with vendors.

1. When researching vendors I get multiple quotes to make a comparison of prices and services and always ask for a list of nonprofit specific client references. Then I call the references. A lot of vendors say they work with nonprofits, however I like to verify that they have many nonprofit clients and those clients are happy with their work.

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