Basic Strategic Planning for Nonprofits

Introduction

Strategic planning is the process used to make a plan for a nonprofit or other organization over the next few years. It is a living document that helps steer the ship and ensure the organization continues to carry out its mission.

Strategic planning models and phases abound, this is just one example of a model of strategic planning that your Board can use. The OnStrategy model includes 4 components:

  • Determine Position
  • Develop Strategy
  • Build the Plan
  • Manage Performance

Determine Position

Determine the Position includes identifying the issues that you need to focus on. What are the risks and opportunities your organization is facing right now? You also need to collect information about your clients, the state of the market and other relevant information that will help you plan.

Develop Strategy

Next, developing strategy involves reviewing the organization’s mission, vision and values. What is the purpose of the organization, has it changed since your last strategic plan? What are your core beliefs (your values), and what would the world look like if your organization succeeded in its goal (its vision)? These all help you set the strategy your organization will follow.

It is important to identify your competitive advantages. What makes your organization different from the others in your industry, in your sector, in your area? This will help you later when it comes time to determine your organization’s messaging. If you don’t know your value proposition, your messaging will be muddied and this will make it more difficult for your organization to be successful.

Once you have done these things, you will develop objectives and set out strategies to help you meet those. Financial forecasting may also be part of this process.

Building the Plan

Building your strategic plan involves taking the big and long-term goals and setting smaller objectives and goals to help you on the road-map. For example, your major objectives will be set out over the next 3 years (in many strategic plans), but you need to identify goals for the next 3, 6, and 12 months – and then for the 12, 18, 24 and 36 months on the way to the next strategic plan.

You may select Key Performance Indicators that you can refer to on a regular basis (perhaps even at each monthly meeting) to know if you are on track. These could include:

  • Monthly Donations
  • Number of Service Users
  • Retention Rate of Volunteers

You will also need to create or review the budget in order to make sure the organization has the money they need to work on these goals.

Manage Performance

Finally, the last item in the strategic planning process is Manage Performance. This involves setting a schedule so that you understand when key events will be taking place and when milestones will be met. Your KPIs might be added to each agenda. You may wish to implement a quarterly review to make sure the Executive Director is still on track to meet these goals.

Finally, a one-year review will let you see what goals you have achieved and what goals remain to be completed.

Conclusion

Have you ever facilitated a strategic planning session, what was it like?

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Introduction to Life Coaching

Introduction

Life Coaching is a field that has been expanding since the 1970s with the growth of the Human Potential Movement. Life Coaching is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (International Coach Federation, n.d.)

Life coaching is frequently performed by counsellors and therapists but also by trained paraprofessionals. Although Life Coaching is an unregulated field there is accreditation through organizations like the International Coach Federation (ICF) or the International Association of Coaching (IAC).

Life Coaching vs Counselling/Psychotherapy

Life Coaching is often confused with counselling or psychotherapy. As coaching is unregulated and counselling/therapy are, coaches must proceed carefully to ensure their work does not cross over into the regulated activities of counselling or therapy with clients.

Life coaching focuses on achieving specific, concrete changes in someone’s life that are skill-based. Counselling and therapy are based around the idea of achieving normalcy or recovery from a mental health issue, while coaching clients are seeking superior performance. (Nelson-Jones, 2007)

Goals of Life Coaching

The goals of life coaching are as varied as the goals of psychotherapy clients or any other situation. For example, mid-career executives seek out life coaching to help make them better public speakers. Some will get a Life Coach to help them achieve their educational goals. Basically any part of your life (academic/educational, relationships, money, career, or others) can be fertile ground for life coaching.

When you see a Life Coach, you will participate in an assessment process to help you better understand your goals.

Life Coaching Model

Life coaching books, like counselling books, teach phase models of intervention to help you structure your contact. The Nelson-Jones (2007) Model is a four-stage, several phase model

Stage 1: Relating

Phase 1 – Starting the Initial Session

The goal in the relating stage is to build a strong working relationship, and to identify what the client wants out of coaching. The first session is the opening conversation: why is the client here?

Phase 2 – Facilitating Client Disclosure

Open-ended questions and strong empathy and rapport-building will help facilitate client disclosure. This will help the coach get a sense of the client’s resources (strengths) and weaknesses, in order to make a plan.

Stage 2: Understanding

Phase 1 – Reconnaissance, Detecting and Deciding

This involves exploring the client’s issues, to understand where the root of the problems is. Skilled questioning, reflecting back at the client what they are saying and probing to find out how they really want their life to be different is key here. The Miracle Question can be useful here: if you woke up tomorrow, and all your problems were solved (but you didn’t know they were solved), how would you know? What would be different?

Phase 2 – Agreeing on a Shared Analysis of How to Achieve the Client’s Life Goals

In this phase, you have a shared understanding of what the causes of the client’s problems are, and you’ve developed goals together to fix their problems. Then you’ll move into the intervention stages.

Stage 3: Changing

Phase 1 – Intervening

In the Changing Stage, the clients will implement the plans you’ve developed together. For example, your client may begin a journal and using a planner to improve their organizational skills, or may start taking classes in college to improve their education. The client may complete “homework” between sessions or do other work to help them stay on track, while the coach keeps track of their progress towards their goals.

Phase 2 – Ending

In the Ending phase, the formal coaching wraps up. The client and coach look together at the progress they’ve made and begin the process of tying up loose ends.

Stage 4: Client Self-Coaching

Phase 1 – Maintenance and Improvement

The Maintenance part of Maintenance and Improvement involves the client and coach making plans for the future and discussing what the client will need to do in order to maintain the improvement they’ve made.

Phase 2 – Self-directed Growth

The final phase of the model involves the client taking the progress they’ve made until now, and without the need of the coach, continuing to develop themselves.

Conclusion

This is a very brief introduction into a field in which many books and other resources have been written. Do you have anything to add? Write in the comments.

References

International Coach Federation. (n.d.) “Coaching FAQs – Need Coaching – ICF”. Retrieved on June 14, 2017 from https://www.coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=978&navItemNumber=567

Nelson-Jones, R. (2007) Life Coaching Skills: How to Develop Skilled Clients. SAGE Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2018), "Introduction to Life Coaching," retrieved on July 23, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/introduction-life-coaching/.
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Deliberate Practice in Social Work

Introduction

Every field has people who are clearly at the top of their game, people who are in the middle or average, and people who shouldn’t be in the profession or who perform very poorly. And everyone wants to be part of that star-performer, top 10% group. Do we know how to get there? Surprisingly, yes. There is a lot of research on “supershrinks” (those rated in the top 10%) and how they differ from other therapists. The outcome of that research applies equally well no matter what role you have.

What it boils down to is that the best therapists, social workers, and clinicians actively practice the basics, and try to get as good as they can. The worst rated therapists, spend far less time on their own professional development.

Chow et. al. (2015) examined a variety of elements to discover what were related to therapeutic outcome. Consistent with what we’re taught in school (that therapeutic modality is responsible for very little change), Chow and colleagues found no relationship between gender, caseload, age, degree, and other elements affected outcome.

What they did find is that the highest performing therapists spent the most amount of time working on their clinical skills. The top performers spent an average of 7 hours a week engaged in deliberate practice. The lowest performing therapists spent around 20 minutes a week engaged in this same kind of work.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice (Ericsson, Krampe & Tesch-Romer, 1993) is a term coined by Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson. He has spent his career studying experts, and found deliberate practice capable of explaining prodigies in music, sports, and even medicine. Malcolm Gladwell’s pop-psych book Outliers: The Story of Success made the case that individuals we see as different simply get more opportunities to practice their skills. Unfortunately he missed the “practice” in deliberate practice, and what most people took away from the book was that you needed 10,000 hours of practice – no matter good or bad, and this is obviously not the case.

Applying Deliberate Practice to Social Work

As a social worker or other clinician, it’s important to make sure that you practice the basics:

  • Read books on basic counselling techniques like Intentional Interviewing and Counseling
  • Video or audiotape yourself (with client consent) and discuss clips in supervision
  • Complete training courses in your chosen therapeutic modality and continue to expand

In addition to engaging in this practice, you must perform outcome based measurement. This involves empirical tools to assess your client’s progress throughout counselling or therapy. By doing this kind of assessment, you can begin to understand what elements are working in your sessions and which ones are not.

Scott D. Miller, the expert in supershrinks, has developed the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) and the Session Rating Scale (SRS). These are standardized rating scales that clinicians can use to track their client’s outcome over time. You can read more by Scott D. Miller in this presentation.

Daryl Chow (who co-authored that study above about supershrinks spending 7 hours a week on deliberate practice) also authored his thesis (Chow, 2014) on the same topic. During that thesis, he wrote that “compared with their peers, therapists’ self assessment of effectiveness was not correlated with actual outcomes, in spite of the use of outcome measures in their clinical practice.” Essentially, we don’t know when we’re doing well or not doing well, and it’s important to use rating scales and continuing to take feedback in order to improve.

References

Chow, D.L., Miller, S.D., Seidel, J.A., Kane, R.T., Thornton, J.A. & Andrews, W.P. (2015)  The role of deliberate practice in the development of highly effective psychotherapists. Psychotherapy. 52(3):337-45. doi: 10.1037/pst0000015

Ericsson, K.A., Krampe, R.T., & Tesch-Romer, C. (1993) The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review. 100(3). 363-406.
Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2018), "Deliberate Practice in Social Work," retrieved on July 23, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/deliberate-practice-social-work/.
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Understanding IRS Form 990

Introduction

Nonprofit organizations in the US are required to file Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is a tax document that the IRS requires, that can help you understand more about a nonprofit that you are evaluating or are interested in working with. If you don’t have accounting training, or haven’t served on a nonprofit Board of Directors, you may be unfamiliar with this vital document.

This document is not intended to be professional accounting advice or replace the services of a qualified accountant. Always seek professional assistance to make sure you fill out this form correctly.

Finding The 990

There are a number of resources you can use to find an organization’s Form 990. Many nonprofits post their 990 publicly. For example, the Red Cross For example, the Red Cross includes a comprehensive list of financial statements on its website, including their Annual Report, their Form 990 and their Audited Financial Statements.

Additionally, there are several organizations that maintain databases of Form 990s:

Finally, the IRS includes a Tax Exempt Organization Search which can help you find an organization’s EIN (). This number can be searched to find the Form 990 and other documents.

Sections of the 990

The IRS provides blank copies of the Form 990, but it’s generally easier to look at a completed one to get a sense of the different type of information. There are 12 sections (called Parts) and 15 sections (lettered A through O) that can make up the Form 990.

Part I through XII

  • Part I. Summary
  • Part II. Signature Block
  • Part III. Statement of Program Service Accomplishments
  • Part IV. Checklist of Required Schedules
  • Part V. Statements Regarding Other IRS Filings and Tax Compliance
  • Part VI. Governance, Management, and Disclosure
  • Part VII. Compensation of Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, Highest Compensated Employees, and
    Independent Contractors
  • Part VIII. Statement of Revenue.
  • Part IX. Statement of Functional Expenses
  • Part X. Balance Sheet
  • Part XI. Reconciliation of Net Assets
  • Part XII. Financial Statements and Reporting

Schedule A through O

These links take you to the IRS information on this schedule.

Form 990, United Way of Central Iowa

Let’s review an actual Form 990. I picked the United Way of Central Iowa, an organization with about 30 million in assets.

Introduction

From the very top of the document, we can see the organization’s name, address and phone number along with the Employer Identification Number (EIN). We see the first date the corporation was incorporated (1918!), the website, and the specific section of the Tax Code that the organization gets its tax-exempt status (501c(3)).

Part I, Summary

In the summary section we see the mission of the organization, “Improve lives by uniting the caring power of community.” We see the organization brought in just under $28 million in 2017, $27,528,063 was from donations, while the organization generated $391,675 in program service revenue, and $72,916 in investment income.

From that amount, the United Way paid out $22 million in grants to other organizations. Line 18 shows the total expenses of the organization, and Line 19 indicates that the organization had a loss of revenue less expenses of $651,210. Even though the organization had less revenue come in than they had expenses go out, the Net Assets or Fund Balances section shows the organization actually finished the year with more money than they had before: they started the year with 33,322,892 and ended the year with $33,624,994 – an increase of $302,102. This difference is made up of line 21 (Total Liabilities) which went down by $76,977 – meaning the organization owes less money, and an increase in assets from $36,596,559 to 36,821,684 (an increase of $225,125.)

$225,125 + 76,977 = 302,102. For this reason, it is unwise to simply look at the excess of revenue over expenses, as collecting a debt or increasing an asset (such as a Temporarily Restricted Contribution becoming “current” or usable) will not necessarily show up as revenue.

Part II, Signature Block

The Signature Block includes a section for the Treasurer or other Officer to indicate that they have reviewed the Form 990 and other documents – and also a space to indicate if there is an Accountant or other paid preparer who may be consulted in lieu of the Treasurer.

Part III. Statement of Program Service Accomplishments

Part III includes a short description of the organization’s mission, followed by an explanation of the 3 programs with the highest amount of expenses, and summarizing total program expenses.  The United Way of Central Iowa has chosen to include their 3 focus areas of Education, Health and Income as their 3 largest programs along with Community Impact Services (which include the 211 helpline and other programs run directly by the United Way.)

Part IV. Checklist of Required Schedules

Part IV includes a checklist. For each box that is checked, you will need to complete the associated Schedules of the Form 990. For example, for the United Way of Central Iowa, they must complete:

  • Schedule A
  • Schedule B
  • Schedule C Part II
  • Schedule D Part IV, V, X, IX, XI, XII
  • Schedule G Part III
  • Schedule I Part I, 2, and 3
  • Schedule J
  • Schedule M
  • Schedule O

Different organizations will have different requirements.

Part V. Statements Regarding Other IRS Filings and Tax Compliance

In Part V, you indicate information that helps the IRS understand your other IRS filings. For example, line 1a notes that they filed 60 forms in total for their tax compliance, while 2a indicates the organization had 84 employees. The other sections include information on income, other financial accounts (like those in foreign countries) and different types of contributions they’ve received.

Part VI. Governance, Management, and Disclosure

In Part VI, you provide information on the size of your Board of Directors (31), and questions about the organization’s finances, governing policies like Conflict of Interest or Whistleblower policies and where financial statements (like the 990) are made available.

Part VII. Compensation of Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, Highest Compensated Employees, and
Independent Contractors

Part VII describes the Board of Directors, and the compensation information for key employees. Most nonprofit Boards of Directors are uncompensated, but may receive honorariums for travel or other expenses. We can see the Chief Operating Officer Sarah Roy receives $181,000 a year in salary, while Elizabeth Buck makes $158,000 a year.

Highly paid independent contractors are also listed here, if they made more than $100,000 in a year.

Part VIII. Statement of Revenue

The Statement of Revenue indicates in more detail the sources of revenue in the organization. We can see that government grants totalling $178,535 were given to the organization, while other donations included $27,349,528 and non-cash contributions (such as advertising) added up to $334,395. Other forms of revenue (beyond donations) are provided.

Part IX. Statement of Functional Expenses

The Statement of Functional Expenses includes salaries paid to employees, employee benefits, grants (the core of the United Way’s model), expenses used to provide services, and other standard line items like Legal fees, Accounting , Office Expenses and Information Technology.

Part X. Balance Sheet

The Balance Sheet is a statement that includes the amount of assets the organization holds (including cash, savings, Accounts Receivable – people who owe you), and other assets. Liabilities including Accounts Payable are the debts that the organization owes.

At the bottom of this section is Temporarily Restricted Net Assets and Permanently Restricted Net Assets. Temporarily restricted net assets are those that are restricted for a period of time. For example, you may receive a $100,000 donation with the stipulation that it not be spent for 10 years. Once the 10 years are up, it will return to general net assets. You can invest Temporarily Restricted Net Assets and spend the interest generated, but not the capital.

Permanently Restricted Net Assets are those that can never be spent. This means that even if your organization ceases to function, the Secretary of State (or similar official) of your State, will give that money to another organization serving a similar purpose.

Part XI. Reconciliation of Net Assets

The Reconciliation of Net Assets shows the total revenue and expenses along with the changes in the assets detailed above. This is how we wind up at our final total of assets, to know whether the organization is worth more (made more money) during the year than they lost – because the asset values are higher than they were at the beginning.

Part XII. Financial Statements and Reporting

Financial Statements and Reporting tells you whether the organization uses Cash Accounting or Accrual Accounting. In cash accounting, you take into account current cash balances on an immediate basis. If you spend $50 your assets go down, if you receive $100 your assets go up. Accrual accounting takes into account that you may receive revenue today that you can’t spend until next month, and you may receive bills today that are not due until next month – and takes those things into account.

Accrual accounting is the most common form of accounting in the business world and the nonprofit world, but small organizations will likely use Cash Accounting because it is simpler.

Schedules

The different Schedules included on the Form 990 are linked to with instructions at the top of the page. These instructions will help you better understand the information required for each one.

Professional Development

There are a variety of professional development opportunities for those who want to learn more about nonprofit accounting.

Conclusion

The Form 990 is an important form used in nonprofit tax compliance, but also has the opportunity to provide you valuable information on a nonprofit that you are considering working for or are evaluating. I hope this has been a helpful post. Please let me know if you have any questions.

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Youth Suicide Prevention with Kiwanis

Introduction

On October 31st I had the opportunity to deliver a presentation on youth suicide to the Sigourney Kiwanis. Kiwanis is a service organization that works with youth. This was a wonderful, active group that I enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with.

I’ve expanded on the point-form presentation that I left participants with, if you’re interested in reading more.

Suicide in Iowa

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (Fleig, 2018) there were 478 suicide deaths in Iowa in 2018 including 39 teenagers. This is a large increase over the 2016 data kept by the CDC. 478 deaths means someone dies every 18 hours.

Suicide in General

For every suicide death, we know there are as many as 50 suicide attempts. (Schwartz-Lifshitz, et. al., 2012) This is partly because of the method that is used. The survival rate for firearm suicide is about 2%, for hanging it is about 30% and for overdose it is 98%. (Elnour & Harrison, 2008; Spicer & Miller, 2000)

Suicide Risk Factors

Anything that overwhelms someone’s coping and makes them feel hopeless may lead to suicidal behavior. Examples include:

  • Struggling in school
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Bullying
  • Substance abuse
  • Being a victim or survivor of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual)
  • Being a child of a parent who is struggling with substance abuse

Suicide Warning Signs

Warning signs are signs that a suicide attempt may be imminent. They include:

  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Talking about death
  • An unexpected peace or calm after a significant struggle (because the person has made the decision to attempt suicide)

Protective Factors Against Suicide

Protective factors are those things that help keep us safe from suicide or buffer us from suicide.

  • Academic Achievement
  • Parental and Non-Parental Connectedness (trusted adults)
  • Supportive Friendships
  • Involvement in Sports
  • Strong mental health / wellness

How You Can Help

Recognize Statements of Lethality

Also called statements of finality or invitations – invitations to ask about suicide – statements of lethality let us know that someone might be struggling with suicide. Statements of lethality include:

  • I can’t go on
  • I can’t do it anymore
  • I wish I was dead
  • I’m at the end of my rope

Ask Clearly About Suicide

You will not put the idea in the person’s head if you ask them about suicide. What you will do is help reduce the isolation and loneliness that person is feeling and reduce the intensity of those suicidal thoughts.

Limit Access to Lethal Means

Limiting access to lethal means, by securing firearms or locking up pills is an important part of safety planning with a vulnerable youth.

Take Intent Seriously

Additionally, take suicidal intent seriously. If a teenager overdoses on a harmless product like melatonin that they believe will hurt them, treat that like a serious suicide attempt.

Recognize Self-Injury is Different from Suicide

Recognize that non-suicidal self-injury (cutting) is separate from suicidal behavior and is usually a coping strategy rather than a means to an end.

Suicide Risk Assessment (CPR Model)

If someone has indicated that they are struggling with suicide, I want to know their current plan, their previous exposure to suicide and their resources/lack of resources.

Current Plan of Suicide

The more detailed their plan, the higher the risk level. Do they have access to the plan? Do they know when or where they want to carry out the plan? We know that taking away those means (e.g. securing the pills), in most cases does not cause an individual to try a different method. Instead, they step back and reconsider their suicide plan.

Previous Exposure to Suicide

Have they attempted before? If so, what’s different now? What’s changed? And have they ever lost someone close to them to suicide? If they have this increases their own risk for suicide.

Lack of Resources or Supports

A lack of resources like friends, family or counselling is one of the most significant risk factors for suicide.

Really Simple Suicide Intervention

If the youth can keep themselves safe today, tonight, tomorrow – then I’m okay with that. I can make an appointment for a counsellor or put other supports in place. If that youth can’t, then I’m going to call 911 or get them to the hospital for some emergency supports.

How Communities Can Help

Communities can form a Youth Suicide Prevention Action Group (YSP), this is a group that brings together members from different sectors like education, mental health, faith and law enforcement to work on resources to help reduce youth suicide.

Implementing an evidence-based program like Yellow Ribbon can help.

Hope for the Future

Senate File 2113 signed in March, requires teachers to get suicide awareness trained
(1 hour of Gatekeeper Training)

70% of those who attempt suicide and live will never make a second attempt because they get the help that they need. (Owens, Horrocks & House, 2002)

References

Elnour, A.A. & Harrison, J. (2008) Lethality of suicide methods. Journal of Injury Prevention. 14(1). 39-45. doi: 10.1136/ip.2007.016246.

Fleig, S. (2018, Oct 29) Following historically high suicide rates, Iowa schools become mental health ‘gatekeepers’. The Des Moines Register.

Owens, D., Horrocks, J. & House, A. (2002) Fatal and non-fatal repetition of self-harm: systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry. 181. 193-199.

Schwartz-Lifshitz, M., Zalsman, G., Giner, L., & Oquendo, M. A. (2012). Can we really prevent suicide?. Current psychiatry reports14(6), 624-33.

Spicer, R. S., & Miller, T. R. (2000). Suicide acts in 8 states: incidence and case fatality rates by demographics and method. American journal of public health90(12), 1885-91.

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2018), "Youth Suicide Prevention with Kiwanis," retrieved on July 23, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/youth-suicide-prevention-kiwanis/.
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