Standing Beside Alaska's Non-Profits

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Applications for two of our more popular education offerings -- the Certificate in Nonprofit Management and the Catalyst for Nonprofit Excellence -- will be available soon.

The Certificate program is held in partnership with the University of Alaska. It's a non-degree program offering 10.4 Continuing Education Units (CEU's). The program is designed for Alaska nonprofit professionals in leadership positions who want to enhance their management skills and explore a full range of issues and best practices to use in their organizations. Members of the statewide Certificate cohort will meet for 14 days throughout the fall in Anchorage. You'll find more information here.

The Catalyst program is a unique, dynamic program where you experience your own personal renewal. It is not your typical training or workshop. It’s not your typical anything. Instead Catalyst is a rare opportunity for nonprofit leaders to focus on themselves while getting the support they need from a cohort of peers.  The program is open to senior leaders, funding officers, and board members with a commitment to the nonprofit sector. People who took part in the first three Catalyst cohorts say it made a huge positive change in their perspective on work, their approach to leadership, and literally on their lives. Learn more about the program here.

Watch our blog for announcements on the opening of applications.

Compass Point Events is offering a reduced rate for our Partners for a workshop called Transformational Change: Disney Style. 

According to its sponsors, Transformational Change is a process, not just another seminar program. It provides participants the opportunity to examine, create and build their plan for strategic organizational change based on research findings from the Harvard Business School that was adapted, implemented and proven successful with positive business results by a world-class business leader, The Walt Disney Company.

The seminar takes place May 7-9 in Orange, CA, near the Disneyland Resort.

Click here for details and information on possible support from the Alaska Community Foundation. If you have questions, please contact Compass Point Events directly.

Posted in Management.    

We received this post today from the National Council of Nonprofits with three excellent tips on how to make your annual audit process easier and more productive. Take a look and see if the tips will help you get prepared with less stress. Also note at the end of the Council's article that the State of the Sector survey is closing soon. If you haven't done so, please participate in this important process to help us better understand our sector. Click here to read our earlier post on the survey.

Board members have responsibility to financially support organization

A charitable giving strategy clearly increased the board’s own responsibility. Board members can only ask others to give to their organization when they have made their own gift. It’s important that organizations that ask boards to give first adopt a policy of 100 percent board giving in an amount that is meaningful and significant to each member.

I don’t recommend setting an amount for each board member to give. When boards have a specific dollar expectation, such as “give or get $2,000,” fear exists that individuals without means or influence won’t be able to serve on boards. Some may think such a requirement will eliminate potentially good leaders with fewer financial resources.

It has been my experience that the board members with the least income are the most willing to give at sacrificial levels to support a mission they care about. Another problem with requiring a specific amount from board members is that it may exclude people with limited resources, and provides those people with the capacity to write a larger check to only give the specific amount that is requested. 

Therefore, what should be required is a gift that aligns with each board member’s individual ability to support the organization in a personally significant way.

What is your organization’s policy on board giving?


Dennis McMillian, is President of The Foraker Group, a capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.  

In his monthly article for the Foraker newsletter, Dennis explains how his family developed a personal philanthropy plan -- and how it's not hard to do. He asserts that "sharing one's abundance, giving, is required to be fully human." Read his letter here.

Posted in Training.    

We have a full schedule of classes for you in February and March. Visit our class calendar to see what is available and then register for a class that will fit your needs.

GoToMeeting teleconferences and video conferences must be paid in advance of the class. If we don't have at least seven people registered for a class three working days before it's to be held, we have to cancel it.

If you have questions, you may contact us by email,, or by phone at (907) 743-1200.

According to Giving USA, individuals – through both annual contributions and bequests – account for over 80 percent of all charitable giving in the United States. This percentage has had little variation over many decades. Individual giving can become a sustainable income source when approached strategically. An organization needs systems in place to manage donor relationships. It’s also critical that all board members fully participate in fundraising.

Relationship-based individual giving done well is a reliable source of revenue. People give money to an organization because they have passion for the mission and they believe the organization is using their gifts to accomplish that mission.

Many nonprofits find this process challenging. Raising money from individuals takes time and a commitment to build the right relationships. It is never a good idea for a board to fund a professional development (fundraising) position that “pays for itself in XX number of years.” The board needs to continue to fund and monitor this effort, often for years, before seeing tangible results.

Give us some examples of how you manage donor relationships.


Dennis McMillian, is President of The Foraker Group, a capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.

Foraker has been publishing surveys to support human resources within Alaska nonprofits since 2002. Our 2014 survey is now open and we urge you to participate in it. The deadline for submitting your suvery is Friday, February 21.

2014 features include:

  • Full survey components – salary and benefits – will be reported for the third consecutive survey.

  • All benefit data entry fields have been reviewed and updated to better reflect current options and practices.

  • Benchmark job descriptions have been edited for currency.

  • 2012 survey respondents can review their entries from that year and bring data current reducing the time and effort required to submit a 2014 response. No data will appear only if a pull down menu of options has been changed to better reflect benefit trends. New questions have been added about total compensation (for all respondents) and health care (for organizations with 50 or more employees).

  • Pricing for a survey report has remained flat since 2010 and is greatly below other market surveys:

    • $75.00 – Foraker Partners that participate in the survey

    • $150.00 – Foraker Partners that do not participate

    • $250.00 – Other nonprofit organizations that participate in the survey

    • $300.00 – Other nonprofit organizations that do not participate

  • The Executive Summary will again be provided at no cost to all participants.

Some of you are huge supporters and users of our surveys and use the data we provide to: 

  • Set salaries for new positions in your organization

  • Review your over-all salary structure for comparability with like organizations

  • Compare your benefit offerings with those of similar organizations

  • Satisfy IRS requirements to support salaries for senior staff at higher compensation levels with survey data of comparable positions

In addition, we will evaluate trends and provide comparative tables to show what’s happened in our sector from one survey period to the next. 

The survey is open for participation and can be accessed directly by clicking here or from the Foraker home page by selecting Salary and Benefits Survey under Quick Links.

If you are a 2012 participant, enter the e-mail and password used in 2012 – the system will provide the password if needed. If you need additional assistance on access, contact Rebecca Savidis at 907-743-1210.

We hope you will participate. The more data we collect the better the quality of the information we can report. 

Unrestricted funds are interesting because they actually come from the most sustainable revenue streams. That critical support includes committed individual donors and mission-related income. An individual charitable giving strategy succeeds when a donor both perceives that an organization delivers on its mission and feels nurtured in his or her relationship with the organization. Earned revenue succeeds when an organization provides a quality product or service that is valued either by individuals or by institutions.

While both require specific infrastructure to implement, these are the strategies for securing sustainable income. Eventually these strategies, when paired with disciplined budgeting, will result in reserves of unrestricted funds. The transition from grant-dependent income to revenue based on sustained charitable giving or earned income is much easier than you might believe. The skills needed to succeed in grant seeking – accountability to the funder, transparency in operations, and good communication – are the basic requirements needed with individual donors or with customers for an earned income operation.

When strategies are developed in a way that ensures a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and either a donor or a customer, then sustainable income becomes much simpler to generate. The phase charitable organization is misleading when applied to most nonprofits. When taken as a whole, a majority of nonprofit income is earned, and less than 25 percent is from charitable donations.

Is your organization more dominant in earned or charitable revenue?


Dennis McMillian, is President of The Foraker Group, a capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.

The lack of flexibility from not having sufficient unrestricted funds can lead to loss of focus and often disrupts the board/staff balance. Nonprofits that lose government funding often turn to institutional funders like corporations and foundations. While these sources can be useful for specific projects and capital expenses, they are the least likely to provide ongoing, unrestricted operating revenue. As a result, too often organizations try to re-invent themselves and their programs every few years to appear new to these funders.

Increasingly, foundations are re-assessing the need to provide operational support, sometimes unrestricted, to help build the core capacity of nonprofits. This is a great trend. In the past, the rare situations in which such unrestricted funding was provided allowed some nonprofits to view grants as sustainable income.

For example, foundations with an emphasis on the arts or environment have long provided less restricted funds. In addition, nonprofit research institutions have been able to maintain ongoing foundation support. However, in most of these circumstances the funders still saw their support as backing something new – a new production, a new initiative, a new study. Yet even with the evolving attention to operational support from newly enlightened foundations, nonprofits should remain cautious about seeking too much support from one source.

Let us know where you get the majority of your unrestricted funds.


Dennis McMillian, is President of The Foraker Group, a capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.  

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