December 03, 2013

#GivingTuesday and the #Unselfie Bring In the Big Bucks

On Tuesday, December 3rd, the second annual #GivingTuesday took place. Encouraging people all over the world to take place in what started as a national day of giving, the campaign celebrates and contributes to the success of charitable activities that support millions of nonprofit organizations.

This year online donations by Blackbaud rose 90% to $19.2-million, with the average gift hovering around $142. Network for Good, which also processes online donations, said it handled $1.8-million in gifts on Tuesday.

In 2012 there were more than 2,000 recognized #GivingTuesday partners in the U.S. During that 24-hour period, Blackbaud processed more than $10 million in donations while DonorPerfect recorded a 46% increase in online donations on that day over the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in 2011.

The #Unselfie, in which participants take a picture of themselves holding a piece of paper with the name of a charity they support-- either through volunteer work or donations-- and post it to their social media networks, helped contribute to the trend and was a leading keyword in the days leading up to Tuesday.

What was your favorite #GivingTuesday campaign? Tell us about it on Facebook and Twitter.
December 01, 2013

Essential Skills for Successful Coaching

To ensure consistent leadership development within the workplace, coaching has become a highly prioritized method used to train, mold, and encourage employees. And while a sports coach and an office supervisor share similar objectives for team growth, office coaching requires a unique set of skills specific to the working environment.

Devoid of strict time restraints and monotonous drills, great office coaching requires patience, consistent hand-holding, and an assortment of skill-set conditioning.

No matter how talented a supervisor is, an organization’s success rate is greatly impacted by the competence of its workers. Specifically, nonprofits heavily rely on their employees’ ongoing drive and development in order to further advance their mission.

Here are 6 essential elements required for successful coaching:

  1. Long-term education—Workplace coaching requires an extended hand-holding process where one must help walk employees through each step of the way; this ensures that workers are applying their new skills in an accurate and time-efficient manner
  2. Multifaceted training methods—Rather than solely focusing on your employees’ specific job requirements, it’s important to help them gain a thorough knowledge of the organization as a whole; this will give them a greater understanding of how their jobs affect office productivity and interact with other positions
  3. Value mistakes—Since no  employee is perfect, don’t harp on every mistake they make; your workers will appreciate their triumphs much more and will learn from these speed bumps throughout the learning process
  4. Genuine feedback—Positive and constructive responses to an employee’s progress will help create ongoing goals as well as instill a sense of accomplishment within the individual
  5. Ask questions—Ask open-ended questions on a fairly regular basis in order to check in with your workers’ memory retention and engagement; this will not only build a trust between you and your workers, but it will give both parties a chance to evaluate where the current strengths and weaknesses lie
  6. Flexible time limits—While there are some unavoidable time restraints set within the workplace, it’s important that there is an ongoing list of goals, both short-term and long-term, that have no expiration date; employees must be allotted time to reflect on and reevaluate their work

Effective coaching requires a formulaic methodology, which can only be achieved through trial and error. Backed by mutual trust and strategic thinking, the best workplace coaches inspire their employees to continually raise the bar. Great coaches encourage stronger internal relationships and a constant evolvement of talent—paving the way for a more successful organization.

Read more coaching tips within the workplace here.
November 19, 2013

Encourage Creativity to Foster Innovation

Sales Representative, HR Recruiter, Payroll Specialist, Marketing Coordinator, CEO, Board Member. At first glance, these job titles appear to be unrelated—requiring different sets of skills and uniquely ranked within the office hierarchy. But these seemingly diverse positions uphold one glaring commonality: the need for innovation.

Innovation most often occurs when something new or different is introduced— often a product or service. Giving nonprofits a leg up on their competition, creativity and innovative ideas can help advance mission objectives.

Learning how to increase productivity, whilst saving time, money, and other resources, requires an extensive process of trial-and-error. However, due to a lack of encouragement and seldom office-wide participation, many nonprofits are handicapping their potential innovators.

Innovative ideas within the workplace are often unheard or simply ignored. Afraid of stepping outside of procedural guidelines, many employees shy away from sharing their creative input—especially to higher authority figures.

Follow these 4 strategies to make innovative thinking an accepted standard for every job position:

  1. Set aside time and funds to help creativity levels grow. Providing ample resources for innovation will enable your workers to produce more ideas, which can lead to greater creativity flow.
  2. Encourage office-wide participation, regardless of an individual’s job description. It’s simple: the more people who collaborate with one another during a brainstorming session, the greater the likelihood of interacting ideas.  Successful innovation is often the product of multiple ideas.
  3. Harness a sense of confidence prior to tackling more ambitious goals. Have your team initially focus on solving simple problems through innovative thinking.  Once your employees see their ideas transformed into effective realities, they will feel better equipped for more out-of-the box thinking.
  4. Foster consistent, risk-free brainstorming sessions. While not all ideas are great, they can be the stepping stones needed for innovative achievement. Innovative brainstorming is a time to make mistakes, so create an unfiltered environment where your employees are free to share any and all ideas.

Innovation provides organizational growth opportunities and keeps your nonprofit from remaining static.  Through allocated resources and abundant reassurance, your employees will adapt innovative thinking as a second-nature behavior. Building a unified team effort, through open brainstorming opportunities, will create inclusive internal relationships and strong external impressions.

Learn more tasks to breed innovation here.

November 13, 2013

Case Study: Why Knowledge is Power


The Council of Community Clinics (CCC) provides centralized support services to 16-member community clinic and health center organizations operating nearly 100 sites in California’s San Diego, Imperial, and Riverside counties. Their mission is to represent and support community clinics and health centers in their efforts to provide access to quality health care and related services, with a special emphasis on serving low-income and uninsured populations. They strive to be the common voice by building and strengthening relationships with strategic partners to develop sustainable resources and healthier communities.



Founded in 1977 the CCC helps its community clinics provide care to 1 in 6 San Diegans. And, since the County of San Diego does not operate a public hospital or public clinics, the CCC-member nonprofit community clinics and health centers are one of the few safety nets for primary care services for low-income and uninsured individuals.


Several years ago, during the height of the Great Recession, the CCC faced a negative budget and used their entire monetary reserve which had been built over years of careful spending. Even with the extra monies at their disposal, the agency had to do a large layoff to continue to provide support and services. “It was incredibly difficult,” said Tracy Garmer, Director of Human Resources at CCC. After the state was fully reimbursed for all the claims, CCC’s UST reserves were drawn down and the organization took notice of their relationship with the Trust for the first time.

“When I first got here- having come from the for-profit sector- I didn’t really know about the Trust, and I was told we were working off a credit, so it didn’t really rise to a high level of interest,” said Garmer. After the state was reimbursed, the CCC had to re-build their UST account so she felt she needed to learn more about how the Trust operates and if it was still their best option.

“When I called I talked to several people that were extremely helpful in explaining that we were only paying for our own claims, versus what we would be doing in the state system. I emailed back and forth with the Director of Operations at UST and ended up being able to ask for a review of our rates.”


Having learned about how UST works and how the Trust ensures that each member is only paying for their own unemployment claims, CCC was able to get their rates reviewed and reduced while they re-built their reserves.  “When I called to inquire about my rate, the Trust was willing to look at and re-calculate my rate for me. We had gone years and years without large layoffs, and UST made a decision about CCC as an individual company, rather than just lumping us in with everyone else. It’s something I highlight to people that are looking at going into the Trust.”

For CCC, early education wasn’t high on the list of immediate to-dos, but when their rates changed and they called on UST to explain, the Trust was able to offer information to help deter future unemployment costs, as well as provide information about how a layoff affects their account. One of the greatest offerings for nonprofit employers who are expecting layoffs is to call UST and ask their dedicated claims reps questions before making any layoff decisions to see if there are any other approaches, such as partial layoffs, that can save their nonprofit money and reduce claims costs in the long, and short, run.
November 05, 2013

Nonprofit Accounting Updates

Guest Post republished from The Bonadio Group

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has released two updates to accounting standards that affect nonprofit organizations.

Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2013-06, Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958) Services Received from Personnel of an Affiliate, requires that if a nonprofit receives donated services from an affiliated group, the cost of the services must be measured in the nonprofit’s financial statements at the donor’s actual cost.

ASU 2012-05, Statement of Cash Flows (Topic 230) Not-for-Profit Entities: Classification of the Sale Proceeds of Donated Financial Assets in the Statement of Cash Flows, generally requires organizations that convert donated securities nearly immediately into cash by selling the securities to classify the related cash receipts as cash inflows from operating activities, unless the donor restricted the use of the contributed resources to long-term purposes. This change is effective prospectively for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2013.

Read more here.
October 24, 2013

Making First Days More Effective For Everyone

There is something inherently difficult about making a new employee’s first day truly successful.  Regularly the hiring manager is so worn out from the initial hiring process that the importance of continuing to woo the new hire is lost on them.

The pitfalls of failing to make your new employee feel welcome and successful on their first day is two-fold though; in part it deflates their expectation about what their experience working with your organization will be. More importantly though it devalues their time at your nonprofit and elongates the onboarding time.

Imagine showing up to work on your first day only to find that nothing has been prepared around your arrival. No computer has been set up. No orientation paperwork has been prepared. No introductions are made. Overall, it seems as though no one at your new job cares that you were hired. How long would it be before you began looking for another new job?

Now imagine a more ideal situation: Your hiring team sent you a welcome note with a first day agenda before you began, and then on your first day, your desk, computer, office supplies, etc. are all ready for you. Co-workers casually drop by between meetings to welcome you aboard and your hiring manager makes vital introductions between you and your immediate team. Orientation materials are prepared and flexible, with small projects and onboarding goals given to you; lunch invitations are extended to help you meet your new co-workers.

Chances are you wouldn’t be as quick to resume your job search because your new organization and co-workers seem excited to have you along.

That initial sense of belonging and preparation goes far.

By demonstrating to new employees that you are excited to have them on board, and that you’ve taken the time to help them get up to speed, you’ve helped lay the earliest groundwork for success. And then as the employee goes through the onboarding process, they have the right contacts, and the right tools, to find the information they need about your organization, donors, and clients to further your mission.

What other onboarding sins have you seen companies commit? Do you have a favorite successful onboarding story?
October 20, 2013

Understanding Financial Reporting for Not-for-Profit Organizations: The Accounting Trinity

Management, donors, lenders and regulators all rely on not-for-profit entities’ financial statements to tell the organizations’ stories. While many individuals come face-to-face with financial information daily, much of it, when presented in financial statement format, is not intuitive or self-explanatory.

This article is the second in a series intended to help non-profit stakeholders better understand financial statements in order to make intelligent use of the information. The first article, Financial Statement Basics, reviewed the three primary financial statements:  the Statement of Financial Position, the Statement of Activities and the Statement of Cash Flows.

Next, we will look more closely at this “accounting trinity,” examining the relationships between statements and the process of capturing financial data and producing statements.

The Accounting Trinity

The three primary financial statements constitute the organization’s center of gravity.  They are a three-ring circus.  The Statement of Activity draws the most attention, but you need to watch in all three places!

How do the statements interact?  The Statement of Financial Position is the sum total of all Statements of Activities over the life of the organization.  The Statement of Activities and the Statement of Cash Flows report very similar information.  The Statement of Activities reflects current-period activity on an accrual basis (income recorded when earned and expenses recorded when committed).  The Statement of Cash Flows reflects how cash was created or used during the current period.  The Statements of Activities and Cash Flows are formatted very differently, however.

Items to look for and consider on every financial statement include:

  • Is there enough cash?
  • Are receivables/payables growing?
  • What’s the bottom line?
  • What are administrative expenses?
  • What are functional expenses?
  • Which numbers are estimated?

Read the rest of the article, which covers Internal Controls and Governance here.
October 16, 2013

Unemployment Insurance (UI) Integrity- A Focus on Compliance

Now that the deadline for states to enact their own UI Integrity laws has passed, employers must realize the growing importance of compliance.

For those who fail to respond to a state request for information, the penalties quickly add up, and could end up costing them their right to fight improper claims.

The expert claims administrators at Equifax Workforce Solutions (WS) have written a white paper entitled Unemployment Insurance (UI) Integrity: A Focus on Compliance to help impart meaningful advice around the federal mandate.

"In 2009, with unemployment rates nearly double historical norms, UI benefit payments increased significantly and reached an annual high of nearly $80 billion. As the effects of this recent recession continue to impact unemployment reserves, a renewed focus has been placed on the integrity of the UI system as states look to replenish insolvent trust funds while minimizing benefit overpayments moving forward."

- Greg Good, Equifax Workforce Solutions

For more information on how your state's legislation (or lack thereof) will affect your organization in the next few months, UST members can contact their WS claims representative directly.
October 15, 2013

UI Laws In All 50 States Go Into Affect Next Tuesday, But Will It Happen?


Part of a larger effort by the federal government to address the growing U.S. deficit, Sec. 252 of the 2011 Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act, the UI Integrity Act, was specifically designed to help prevent the improper and/or fraudulent payment of unemployment benefits which have been a far-reaching drain on the state unemployment insurance (UI) system.

Tuesday, October 22nd, is the deadline, set by Federal law, for all 50 states to enact their own UI Integrity legislation. But  will all 50 states actually be compliant? Well, probably not.

As of this publication, 22 states, and D.C., have not yet passed any legislation in relation to Sec. 252. (Neither has Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands.) Of those, only 7 have pending Sec. 252 compliant UI integrity legislation.

Sec. 252's mandate required states to require employers to respond in a timely and adequate manner to all state requests for UI benefit information in order to reduce improper payments. If an employer fails to respond in a timely or adequate manner, it becomes the employer's responsibility to pay for either part of or all of the improper payments made to claimants.

Nonprofit employers participating in the state UI system can opt out of paying their state unemployment taxes and instead directly reimburse the state for the dollar-for-dollar cost of benefits paid to their former employees. By participating in the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) nonprofits with choose to directly reimburse the state have added help in ensuring that all communications are timely and adequate-- but should a claim have to be tried, expert hearing representatives aid our members in presenting the best witnesses and evidence available.

Read more about your state's legislative actions here.
October 10, 2013

Member Case Study: Meals-on-Wheels of Johnson & Ellis Counties

Meals-on-Wheels of Johnson & Ellis Counties (MOW), a community-based not-for-profit in Texas, helps home bound elderly and disabled persons remain independent and healthy in their homes by providing home-delivered meals, daily personal contact, and support.

Founded in 1977, it currently serves nearly 3,000 needy persons per year in a two-county service area that covers over 1,700 square miles.

“Serving the children of yesterday, today,” MOW ensures that someone checks on the elderly and disabled of Johnson and Ellis counties every day. By offering personal interactions and an honest interest in the welfare of home bound and disabled individuals, the 600 volunteers who work with them each month make the difference in many lives. With a National Nutrition Certification Program, a peer-review program that signifies that a meal program is performing its mission of providing healthy nutrition services to the elderly and at-risk populations, MOW ensures quality service and organizational accountability by setting national nutrition program standards.

UST Members Speak - Vinsen at Meals on Wheels


Because MOW places a strong emphasis on individuals versus numbers, communities as opposed to governmental boundaries, and timely services versus waiting lists, the organization strives to do more than just end hunger for home bound individuals. Located just south of Dallas and Fort Worth in North Central Texas, the organization relies heavily on donors to cover the costs of not having their own kitchen, but they are in the fourth year of a $6 million capital campaign that will allow MOW to build a regional meal facility that would provide an initial savings of nearly $1 per meal and create the ability to cook more than 1,800 fresh hot meals a day.

With only $1.3 million raised thus far, MOW knows there is still a long way to go before the kitchen is opened. “At times we’re too close to Dallas and Fort Worth and other times we’re not close enough to draw on the foundations and corporate interests there, but the kitchen is an incredible opportunity for us, as it will solidify our future, and allow us to better serve those who need services,” explained Vinsen Faris, the Executive Director of MOW.


Since 2003, UST has provided definite cost savings and proven budgeting abilities that have been put directly back into helping pay for the meals of those reliant on MOW. Even though the agency has a history of very low turnover, and rare incidents of dismissal, the claims monitoring services helped prevent a costly fraudulent unemployment claim from being successful. UST educational offerings have also helped prevent the agency from running into any other fraudulent claims by providing information on best hiring practices and documentation.


“I think that unemployment taxes are one of those things that people don’t want to talk about. But, we’re doing our best to control our risk levels because we want to be the best stewards of the public’s money that we can be, and I think UST helps us do that,” said Faris.


Most people don’t want to talk about unemployment taxes, but when organizations are willing to look at how unemployment alternatives can benefit those they serve by opening up more unrestricted funds and enlarging what they are able to give back to their community, nonprofits can find valuable cost savings in the form of need-to-know information and advice.
October 06, 2013

Staffing Strategies eBook Highlights How Nonprofits Can Effectively Recruit, Reorganize, and Develop Staff

UST has released a nonprofit strategy guide emphasizing how nonprofits can promote internal development and improve retention rates through efficient staffing methods.

Santa Barbara, CA – Unemployment Services Trust (UST) is pleased to announce the release of Nonprofit Staffing Strategies: 3 Steps to Hiring, Separations and Staff Development. Stressing the correlation between mission advancement and effective staffing methods, the strategy guide aims to equip nonprofits with an in depth understanding of relative hiring, termination, and unemployment techniques. The eBook provides step-by-step procedures, which encourages nonprofits to revamp their current staffing strategies—paving the way for procedural consistency and reduced costs.

“I think the Staffing Strategies eBook will help nonprofits better identify leadership behaviors, mitigate potential risks, and improve their overall hiring processes,” explained Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST.  “With hundreds of strategy guides already downloaded, I’m confident this eBook will provide the tools required for internal growth.”

This guide reveals how to:

  • Recruit employees, both resourceful and proficient in their job requirements
  • Create specific and ongoing objectives to consistently build employee capabilities
  • Document disciplinary actions leading up to an employee’s departure
  • Uphold proper termination etiquette
  • Manage unemployment costs, claims protests, and appeal hearings

UST provides its members with an abundance of educational content. Often discussing unemployment costs, claims management methods, HR-related procedures, and relative case studies, UST’s informative materials are designed to help nonprofits save money and build resiliency.

Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with nearly 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance options. Visit to learn more.
October 01, 2013

Keep Everyone on the Same Page: Update Your Employee Handbook

Updating your employee handbook will help your employees stay in-the-know regarding your nonprofit’s evolving rules and regulations—a process that, when well executed, can protect your organization from undue employment problems and improper unemployment claims, as well as build employee relations and secure a healthier internal culture.

Taking the time to alter employee handbook policies at least once a year can mitigate employment related lawsuits and ensure your nonprofit’s overall progression.

As milestone employment laws change, even laws not directly impacting employment-- including state-by-state changes in regulations regarding medical marijuana and gun carry permits-- your employee handbook must clearly identify and address your organization’s policies regarding legal changes that impact your organization.

If you don’t help keep your staff properly informed, you can’t expect them to decipher what’s work appropriate and what’s not. And if you do leave it up to individual employees to decipher what is an isn’t appropriate, your organization is left open to employment related lawsuits and expensive, improperly collected unemployment benefit claims.

Some of the most important policies you should re-examine, if you haven’t done so in the past 6 months are:

  • Employee benefits
  • Break time for nursing mothers
  • Discipline processes
  • Hourly employee regulations

Remember, you need to be consistent and effective with employee handbook updates. Rather than completely changing everything, learn how to simplify wording and tweak pre-existing policies. (There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if you don’t absolutely need to.)

But the most important thing that you must do is educate your employees on their behavior and rights at the workplace; it’s beneficial to all parties involved.

Whenever the Handbook is updated, take the time to double check that you have proof of receipt from everyone since it’s imperative that you keep these easily accessible at all times. Without proof of receipt, your organization is open to improper unemployment claims, lawsuits, and all sorts of other slippery slopes.

When everyone at your organization shares the same views on organizational rules and expectations, you lessen the risk of confusion and unintended misconduct.  An updated handbook leads to a consensus on expected behavior and attitude—paving the way for a more harmonious work experience for everyone.

Learn more about how to update your Employee Handbook here.
September 29, 2013

Understanding Financial Reporting for Not-for-Profit Organizations: Financial Statement Basics

Guest Post by Debbie Roessl Dimery, CPA, Partner, Lindquist LLP

Accounting is the process of capturing, recording, configuring, analyzing and reporting financial information.  While many individuals come face-to-face with financial information daily, much of it, when presented in financial statement format, is not intuitive or self-explanatory.  Accounting information is presented on the assumption that one has a basic familiarity with the vocabulary of accounting.

Reading a set of financial statements is like shucking an oyster:  You have to know what you are doing and work to get the meat.

Management, donors, lenders and regulators all use not-for-profit organizations’ financial statements. They do not see an organization’s day-to-day activities and, therefore, must rely on the non-profit’s financial statements to tell its story. It is important that these stakeholders learn accounting vocabulary and understand financial-statement basics in order to make intelligent use of the information.

This article is the first of a series intended to help non-profit stakeholders become knowledgeable spectators in the game by reviewing financial statements, understanding statement interactions, knowing the process of capturing financial data and producing statements, and understanding the role of an independent auditor. First, we will examine a basic set of financial statements.

Read the rest of the article, which covers Financial Statement Basics, here. Want to learn more? Sign up for our upcoming guest webinar here:
September 26, 2013

Guest Post: Legal Considerations in Layoffs, Salary Reductions and Furloughs

A Nonprofit HR white paper by Gerard P. Panaro, Attorney-at-Law, Howe & Hutton and Lisa Brown Morton, President/CEO, Nonprofit HR Solutions

With a possible government shutdown still looming on the horizon, many organizations who receive government funding are probably reviewing their plans for staffing during this period. And as uncertainty continues, it's important to ensure you are fully aware of the legal implications of any actions you take.

Organizations have a number of options depending on their situation though. Affected organizations may determine that they cannot afford to pay their employees during the shutdown so they may chose to furlough staff, reduce pay, or require employees to take leave (using accrued, advanced or unpaid leave). They may also send their employees to mandatory training. But what if too many employees of a protected class are effected by decisions? Or if employee's exempt status is violated when requiring time off?

The experts at Nonprofit HR have put together an information packed white paper that can help make your decision making easier. Download the full white paper here.
September 11, 2013

Right to Work Law to See the Indiana Supreme Court

After a hard and drawn out battle over Indiana’s Right to Work law, it appears the fight will be continued in the state’s Supreme Court. A Lake Superior Court Judge, John Sedia, ruled Thursday (9/5/2013) that the law violates a provision in the state constitution barring the delivery of services without “just compensation.”

Sedia ruled the law incorrectly forces unions to represent workers who don’t pay union dues.

Read more about the fight, and what experts from all sides of the fight predict will happen, here.
August 29, 2013

Who Should Control Workforce Development Monies?

As we reported before, the National Governors Association (NGA) turned their attention during the 2013 session to helping people with disabilities find jobs. By focusing on building partnerships with companies already committed to helping those with disabilities find long-term, satisfying employment, the NGA aimed to create a plan that provides disabled workers a paycheck and the strengthened sense of purpose that many people find in their work.

Read the previous article here.

Now that their August report is wrapped up, states struggling to rebuild their workforces say they know better than the federal government how to make the most out of the limited amount of workforce development and job training dollars in their own state. In particular, the NGA is asking for an increase in monies allocated to “set-aside” funds from the Workforce Investment Act that states are able to use at their own discretion to explore new approaches to workforce development tailored to their states’ needs.

Read more about what the NGA recommended, and what their critics say to counter the report, at Stateline here.

And tell us, who do you think should control the bulk of workforce development monies: the state, the Feds, or local governments? Share your answers on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
August 25, 2013

Retention Challenges & Solutions: Why Your Retention Strategy Needs an Upgrade

We’ve all heard it time and time again: “9 out of 10 nonprofits lack a formal retention strategy.”* Nonprofits need to revise their view on employee retention. Training a new employee is expensive. Keep your employees happy to keep costs down.

But the constant stream of demands is easy to tune out. There are thousands more pressing concerns that need to be addressed first, right?

The cost of losing a talented employee who is familiar with your organization, cause, and market far outweighs the time it takes to develop and implement an effective formal employee retention plan. Worse, the loss continues to grow as you factor in the time it takes to find and train a replacement, and the time it takes them to build relationships equivalent to those lost when your former employee left.

So what’s a busy nonprofit to do?

Start small. Next time you’re looking to fill an empty position, take a close look at your recruitment strategy. Are you doing everything you can to attract recruits that will be a good fit in your organization not only when they start, but a few years down the line? The more engaged an employee is with your organization, the longer they are likely to stay (and grow) with your organization. But if you aren’t doing the small things up front, like being honest and open about your organization’s culture, chances are your organization will be waging an uphill battle to keep them onboard.

Give them a ring. Not a literal ring. But imagine employee engagement as a dating relationship; to keep your employees onboard and on track, it’s important that you both are continuously assessing the relationship, strengthening your commitment, and ensuring satisfaction. If you think employee engagement might be missing a beat, find new ways to make work more enjoyable, both emotionally and professionally for your employees. And then thank them for their hard work.

People aren’t computers, and they aren’t easily replaceable, but we all fall behind sometimes. So, how does your organization foster employee engagement?

*2013 Nonprofit HR Employment Trends Survey, Nonprofit HR, (2013), retrieved from
August 21, 2013

Why You Need a Vacation from Your Vacation

Vacations are designed to be a tranquil escape from everyday stresses encountered at the workplace.  However, many Americans are finding reasons to either avoid or shorten their vacation time usage.

While it is true that American organizations are one of the top most productive business sectors in the world, lack of vacation will inevitably lead to poor physical and mental health, as well as increased turnover rates.  Vacations are imperative to maintaining vitality and work ethic throughout the office—increasing both productivity and happiness with one’s job and others.

With 61% of employed Americans expecting to work during their summer vacation, it’s no wonder many employees lack enthusiasm when planning their vacation time.  Here are some prevalent work-related activities vacationing workers often find inevitable:
  • 38% of workers anticipate receiving work-related emails.
  • 30% expect to answer work-related phone calls.
  • 24% presume they will receive work-related texts.
  • 20% believe they will be asked to do work by a boss, client, or colleague.
  • 32% assume they will be making preparations for incoming documents on their computer.

Developing stress prior to, during, and after vacation, due to interrupted work flow and lack of routine, many workers fail to recognize the positive effects vacation has on one’s work.

Use these methods to make vacations relaxing and work-free:
  • Vacation from technology, as well as the office.  Because our society is so reliant on our smartphones, and laptops, and tablets, checking a work voicemail or email unfortunately becomes second nature.  Either set a small amount of time aside for answering calls and messages, or shut off your devices altogether.
  • Think of vacation as a duty, rather than an optional perk.  Vacations are important to your health and attitude.  Even if you don’t think you need it, consistent days off helps you rejuvenate yourself—energy needed when going back to work.
  • Take short, but regular days off.  People are often more productive and cheerful in the days leading up to vacation.  If a week or more of vacation time is still too daunting, don’t be afraid to take long weekends off or spread out your vacation days.  More mini vacations give you more things to look forward to.
  • Have confidence in your staff and coworkers when you’re away.  Appoint a second-in-command for the duration of your absence.  Be sure to plan ahead and delegate responsibilities so you don’t feel pressure to check in while you’re on vacation.
  • Encourage your staff to take vacations.  Employees are often too timid to ask for days off in general, fearful of portraying a lazy work ethic.  As a superior, it’s up to you to publicize that vacation days are a vital necessity, not a sign of weakness.

Vacations are crucial to a worker’s sanity and general attitude towards the workplace.  Though it’s tough to step away from the computer and turn off the smartphone, time away from the office will provide you much needed rest, and the break you deserve.   Vacations are what help employees remain satisfied with their jobs, in turn keeping organizations competitive and successful.

Learn more about vacation and work time here.
August 12, 2013

Understanding and Utilizing Different Office Personalities

Have you ever critiqued a coworker because of their overbearing tendencies or their abrasive personality? Don’t worry; you’re not alone in your frustrations. However, learning to dissect and identify your own and others’ personality traits can actually increase work ethic and strengthen internal relationships—paving the way for a stronger organization overall.

For nonprofits, employees’ collaborative efforts are often the key element to mission advancement But clashing personalities working toward the same goal can lead to resentment and impatience in the work place.

Learning to recognize and understand others’ personality strengths and weaknesses can help you appreciate the diverse environment you work in Specifically, nonprofits can take advantage of their diversity when it comes to improving their employment procedures and ensuring ongoing structural soundness.

Basic working styles can often be separated into 4 broad categories:

  • Learning—Learners are the researchers Unable to quench their thirst for knowledge, learners are constantly looking for the root of current and potential problems. For instance, with regard to your organization’s employment practices, learners can help analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your workforce, analyze how better documentation and standardized hiring practices can lead to a stronger, more long-term labor force.
  • Loving—These individuals are known for their relationship building abilities. They tend to show empathy and kindness towards others and understand how to approach difficult situations with grace. Spreading optimism throughout the office can help your nonprofit maintain a “glass-half-full” outlook on everyday work problems. Internal positivity and support alleviates stress during unanticipated budget or employee loss—providing you with a sense of security and consistency.
  • Doing—Doers are known to execute and accomplish set goals. They thrive on lists, deadlines, and projects. For example, by utilizing this focus and attention to detail, nonprofits can analyze and restructure their training and continued education opportunities—leading to greater time efficiency and overall HR effectiveness.
  • Leading—Leaders create and persuade by providing your employees with the tools to succeed Able to paint a picture of their visions, using innovation and passion, leaders are able to easily rally support behind their ideas. Great leaders inspire employees to constantly push themselves and take calculated chances to further your nonprofits’ mission. With each leader setting the bar even higher for the next, your nonprofit will be on track for upward mobility and constant procedural refinement.

Whichever working style team members possess doesn’t really matter by itself What most affects a nonprofit’s success is the compilation of strengths your team brings to the table and your team’s ability to successfully work together as a cohesive unit. As long as you understand and utilize everyone’s unique abilities, pertinent to your team’s progress, your nonprofit will continue to flourish.

Discover which working style you have here.
August 07, 2013

Pairing Strategy with Leadership Development: A Recipe for Nonprofit Success

Leadership development has always been a huge priority within the nonprofit realm. Always looking towards growth opportunity and mission advancement, most nonprofits place heavy emphasis on grooming their potential leaders.

Though prioritizing leadership development is a step in the right direction, nonprofits must simultaneously analyze and define both strategy and leadership development procedures in order to transform goals into achieved reality.

Nonprofits often lose momentum and general direction after failing to go over the specifics. More often than not, leadership development procedures fall into generalized categories. Because no one strategy or goal is alike, it’s important to identify the specific skills required for every set objective.

When looking at future development plans, your organization must develop a consensus around what skills your employees, leaders, and future leaders currently possess, and what behaviors will be required for future endeavors. Identifying the gap between present and future skill sets will better allow you to create a plan of action to achieve such skills.

Bridgespan created a process to help organizations both analyze potential changes in business strategy, and create a leadership development plan to address these organizational shifts.

When looking to the future, ask yourself these questions:

  • What major strategic changes(s) is your nonprofit planning on making?
  • What behaviors and skills will be required to execute these strategic changes?
  • What behaviors will be required of both current and future leaders to transition smoothly and successfully implement these changes?
  • Which leadership needs will be required of each future leadership role? Will we be able to develop the needed behaviors and skills through internal grooming of current staff members? If we are unable to do so, what will the course of action be in reaching out to those possessing such behaviors?

Overall, you must think of strategy and leadership development as a package deal. Greatly affecting one another, strategy and leadership development must consistently be analyzed side by side.

By closely monitoring your organization and its future leadership training process, you can decide what’s effective and what still requires improvement. Attention to detail is the key ingredient to identifying potential weaknesses, harnessing current strengths, and bridging the organizational gaps.

Learn more about linking leadership development and strategy here.
July 29, 2013

Performance Evaluation and Management is Changing- Thankfully.

As a supervisor, what’s your least preferred responsibility? If you said goal setting and performance management, you aren’t alone.

As an employee, what’s your least preferred activity? Again—you’re not alone.

Often performance evaluations are cited as the most broken and least preferred organizational practice, but everyone knows goal setting and performance management are important. So how can you help your direct reports succeed?

  1. Be upfront and honest. Communicate openly and often with your employees. Most of the people working with you want to do well throughout the year; they want to help your organization succeed. So give them the opportunity to do so! If Steve isn’t taking process “A” as seriously as you need him to, or if Becky needs to dial back on “X,” tell them (as nicely and appropriately as possible). More often than not, you’ll find that they are not only open to, but eager for, feedback about their work.
  2. Set stretch goals throughout the year—not just during the annual review process. Setting stretch goals throughout the year helps your employees scale mountains one step at a time. In conjunction with smaller goals, stretch goals give employees the opportunity to take chances within their position and challenge themselves as employees. Best of all, stretch goals give your employees the opportunity to fail gracefully. Because you’ve encouraged them to do something you acknowledge is outside of their comfort level, most employees recognize that you’re challenging them to jump, but not taking away the netting if they fall. It also gives you the opportunity to reward and recognize successful work during the annual review.
  3. Be agile and expect goals to change throughout the coming months. One of the most dreaded things about performance reviews is that they’re structured to make an employee accountable for specific things throughout the coming year. But, for most organizations, goals are constantly changing, which can make it difficult to keep track of and follow through with performance measures that have become outdated.
  4. Trust your team. Remember: someone at your organization hired each and every one of your employees because they felt that the employee demonstrated the drive, talent, and promise you need to fulfill your mission. If you can’t see why an employee was hired, give them the opportunity to tell you why they think they were hired.

Schedule a time to find out why they think they were hired and talk through the ways your mission has changed since then. Chances are they know your organization and its mission well enough that they aren’t someone you want to slip away, so find out if there is another way they can help your team succeed.

What would you add? Are there other ways that you help employees and managers collaboratively work together to make performance evaluations more productive and enjoyable?
July 28, 2013

Utilize Change Before it Overwhelms your Nonprofit

Don't let change overwhelm your organization!

The phrase, “the world is shrinking,” symbolizes the global influence of technological growth and innovation. While most people stress over these ongoing changes, developing thorough and consistent change management procedures often restores a much needed sense of control in the workplace.

While change affects every work sector, nonprofits in particular often view change in two opposing viewpoints—either as opportunity for mission advancement or as a risk for total organizational downfall. By analyzing the most predominant changes seen throughout the nonprofit world, these organizations can better predict and prepare for such adjustments.

Changes prevalent throughout the nonprofit workforce include:

  • Increasing demand for high-tech information technology
  • Greater focus on efficient administrative and cost practices
  • Staffing changes
  • Restructuring of job requirements or work practices

Though change can be difficult, it can be an asset used to further a nonprofit’s overall development, as long as proper procedures are followed.

Here are a few methods to help you cope with change:

  1. Have your managerial staff rate your organization’s competencies, relevant to change management. Evaluate things like your organization’s readiness for change, board attitude towards change, executive leadership, and your financial stability.
  2. Once you know change will occur, determine all potential effects. It’s important to decipher what factors influenced the change in the first place, to help identify future changes. Additionally, looking at every anticipated effect can help you counteract a negative impact.
  3. Communicate with your staff and encourage feedback, when warranted. In order to avoid feelings of panic or unease among your employees, be sure to inform them what changes are likely to occur and when. Be sure to explain how change will affect both individual positions and the organization as a whole. Allowing your staff to provide feedback will not only give them a sense of control, but also allow you the time to alter changes based off of employees’ suggestions.
  4. Evaluate all changes and review the success rates. Decide whether or not the change was successful and beneficial to your nonprofit’s growth. Be honest with yourself—learn from the mistakes made when the change was implemented and adjust future procedures accordingly.

While you can’t always control change, you can control how you react and integrate change within your organization. Because change is often unexpected, it’s important to learn from your mistakes and keep tabs on what was done right. Remember, without change, the world is static. And change is what gives your nonprofit the ability to move forward.

Read more about change management here.
July 25, 2013

Employment Branding—What You Can Do To Make Your Agency A “Great Place to Work”

Branding has moved beyond sales and marketing and into the world of hiring and HR in the past few years as the concept of employment branding has experienced a significant upsurge.

First introduced in the early 1990’s the term “employment branding” refers to the whole of an organization's efforts to communicate what makes it a desirable place to work. Typified by national companies like NPR, Google, Zappos, REI and local companies unique to every community, the importance of employment branding is staging a revolution.

Driven in large part by the mainstreaming of social media recruitment channels and word of mouth job hunting, employer branding lends itself easily to nonprofits.

Don’t believe me? Well, because values are often the underlying structure for an organization’s reputation (aka branding), many nonprofits can easily incorporate their pre-established mission into their employment brand. By doing what you love, and what you believe in, you (and your employees) have probably already worked toward creating a strong employment brand.

Research backs the importance of successful employment branding. Over and over again workers report that starting salary is less important than their perception of the organization and the satisfaction that they receive from the employer’s culture.

So what can you do to build a powerful employer brand?

  • Start internally. The easiest way to begin building a strong employer brand is by ensuring that your employees are 1.) happy with their jobs and the company, and 2.) are telling others about how much they like the company. Take the time to make sure that employees are being thanked for their hard work and are recognized for their contribution to the company. Additionally, find workplace perks that fit within your company culture and offer them as added incentive for a happier workplace.

  • Engage with the community. Another simple way for nonprofits to improve their employer branding is to actively engage with the surrounding community. Too often it’s easy for agencies to forget about groups not directly impacting their work, but offering community open houses that expose your nonprofit to new and nontraditional groups can extend goodwill throughout the community and open your organization up for exciting new networking opportunities.

  • Address negative branding immediately. Even when everything’s going great, the smallest rumor can quickly bring down years of good branding. And because bad things happen, often with little warning, it’s best to have a pre-established crisis plan that helps keep your employment branding safe.
  • Ensure that employees are treated well when they leave. When good employees leave voluntarily, celebrate their successes one last time, and give everyone the chance to say “thank you!” for all of their hard work.And even if an employee is fired in disgrace, don’t bully them or otherwise act poorly. An unemployment trust, like UST, can help you train your managers and supervisors to properly document all infractions and warnings so that you can gracefully (and successfully) fight any improper unemployment benefits charges later on. Learn more about how UST can help you lower unemployment costs at your agency.
July 10, 2013

How to Advance Your Nonprofit’s Morale

The UST admin team went to the Getty Villa as a group to celebrate our mutual successes throughout 2012- 2013.

Because nonprofits tend to have limited resources accompanied by greater demands, employees often face higher stress levels and workloads. Such unrelenting demands can weaken internal morale. And, with a deteriorating organizational foundation, mission advancement becomes much harder to achieve.

Developing a consistent and efficient morale “check-in” system can be an effective tool in maintaining a pleasant work atmosphere and satisfied employees. One of the best ways to fully realize this internal bliss is to cater towards employee wants and needs; often accomplished through relationship development and positive reinforcement.

Here are a few tips on how to better identify and improve morale:

  • Work toward a reciprocated respect. Employees are far more likely to remain engaged and productive if they genuinely enjoy their work environment. Keeping employees in the loop while encouraging them to give you feedback can only enhance your work relationships.

  • Establish trust. How you act sets the stage for your employees’ work behavior. Set the example by increasing communication levels and taking personal responsibility for your assigned tasks. Trust that your employees will mimic your behavior and mirror your responsibility and initiative.

  • Learn to listen. Your employees have first-hand knowledge of common internal issues and what needs to be improved. It’s important to maintain an open forum and follow up with improvement strategies. Allowing employees to vent their frustrations and be heard is a huge step in the right direction.

  • Communicate and share. Creating small work groups that allow employees to voice ideas, questions, or concerns will provide everyone with a sense of belonging and worth. Furthermore, talking about how each individual’s role affects the mission’s advancement provides employees with more drive and a stronger sense of purpose.

  • Recognize and appreciate. Genuine gestures, whether formal or informal, go a long way when showing your employee’s appreciation. Whether you distribute tangible awards, such as plaques or bonuses, or give a simple handshake, public acknowledgement of an employee’s success will motivate others to strive for similar improvement and personal success.

  • Don’t forget to have fun! Create non-work opportunities for your employees to get together and have fun. Simple activities, such as monthly movie days, birthday celebrations, or department excursions can help alleviate stress and strengthen internal bonds.

The only way to advance your nonprofit’s mission is through employee support and their dedicated work efforts. Taking time to focus on morale improvement can make a huge difference in your organization’s success.

Read more tips on how to improve internal morale here.
July 08, 2013

Don’t Let Unrelated Business Activities Devastate Your Tax-Exempt Status

What is Related Business Activity?

When a nonprofit charges a fee for service, or even sells product(s) as an ongoing activity directly related to its founding mission, it is considered a related business activity because it furthers the nonprofits mission. For example, if a nonprofit animal shelter charges a fee to allow a family to adopt a new puppy, it would be a related business activity.

The fee furthers the shelters mission to provide loving homes for animals in its care.

But not all business activities—or profits for that matter—are protected by a nonprofit's tax-exempt status. So where does the line get crossed? And how can a nonprofit keep from accidentally conducting taxable business?

What is “Unrelated Business Activity”?

The simplest definition of unrelated business activity is that it is taxable profit a nonprofit earns through actions not directly related to its founding mission. But that doesn’t really mean much in the scope of things, so let’s back up and delve a little deeper.

If a business activity is not related to the organization’s tax-exempt purpose, then any profits would be considered “unrelated” and subject to the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT), as applied when gross income from the unrelated business is $1,000 or more.

So, if a nonprofit animal clinic were to also run an exclusive dog breeding program—where the work is not only not performed by volunteers, but also doesn’t coincide with the founding mission of the shelter—then it’s possible that the gross income from this business venture could be considered unrelated.

In fact, it’s highly probable it would be considered unrelated.

Under IRS regulations, a nonprofit can risk losing its tax-exemption if a “substantial” portion of the organizations total activities are unrelated to its mission. When applied by the IRS, the word “substantial” is interpreted to be in effect when the unrelated business activity grows to 25% or more of the nonprofit organization’s activity.

And although the IRS does make certain standard exceptions, an activity is almost also considered to be unrelated if all three of the following are present:

- It is a trade or business

- It is regularly carried on

- It is not substantially related to furthering the exempt purpose of the organization

Although a nonprofit can engage in some unrelated business activity and pay taxes on the profit, it’s always best to be careful. If you think it may be possible that your nonprofit could be gaining 25% or more of your profits through an unrelated business venture, a lawyer well-versed in UBIT and other nonprofit tax/legal implications can help you determine how to keep your 501(c)(3) status and avoid the pitfalls of losing your tax-exempt status.

July 02, 2013

Be Smart, Hire Right the First Time

Nonprofits rely on their dedicated, engaged employees to further advance their organizations’ missions. A lax recruitment process, or weak new hires, can jeopardize valuable time and money pertinent to a mission’s success, though.

Because the hiring process tends to be more strenuous for nonprofits due to their typically smaller size and salary rate, a concise recruitment procedure is imperative.

Don’t risk hiring the wrong individual just to end a painful hiring process. Learn how your organization can better identify great job candidates in a fast and efficient manner.

Substantially improve your recruitment process using these six easy-to-manage steps:

  1. Create a truthful job description that depicts both the job expectations and the company as a whole. You want to attract a candidate whose skills match that of the position’s requirements, and whose personality/interest will fit well in the organization. Falsifying this content could attract the wrong candidates and lower retention rates.
  2. Develop a multiple-step hiring practice. Having numerous hiring phases will eliminate those seeking ANY job. You want someone who is truly interested in what your company has to offer.
  3. Take part in the interview process. Because you know exactly what you’re looking for in a potential new hire, it’s extremely important to get involved as early as possible. Whether it is phone interviews or resume reading, you play a crucial role in weeding out unfit candidates.
  4. Build your interview around the position’s desired qualities. Create interview questions that reflect roles and characteristics needed for the position. This will help you identify how many qualities each candidate possesses.
  5. Have others play a role in the interview process. When it comes down to the final candidates, having other staff members you trust involved with making the final decision will help alleviate any uneasiness or anxiety. Having worked with you, these team members could help with the decision-making process when you’re on the fence.
  6. Set a realistic, yet firm, onboarding timeline. Allow 3 months to search for the right candidate, 1 month in order for the new hire to give notice, and 2 months for training purposes. This will give you both short term and long term hiring goals and will prevent you from abruptly hiring the wrong individual.

By reorganizing your hiring process, using these tips and suggestions, you can effectively sort through hundreds of applications and interviews and successfully identify great potential employees. Remember, combining both personal instinct and organizational intelligence can help you build a strong foundation for your organization’s mission development.

Read more tips on how to hire right here.
July 01, 2013

The Face of Unemployment Insurance Is Changing

The number of states that have made significant changes to their unemployment insurance programs—on both the employer and job seeker side—is rising as more states repay their federal loans and work to improve the future health of their state-run unemployment fund, but the outcome may cripple nonprofit employers looking to lower the cost of unemployment.

Santa Barbara, CA – Even before the Recession began in earnest, several states were forced to begin borrowing from the federal government to keep their unemployment funds from spiraling into insolvency and enable them to meet benefit obligations for unemployed workers.

By 2011, 37 states had borrowed more than $40 billion.

That number has since dwindled to just under $21 billion according to the U.S. Treasury, but states have ratcheted up an additional $503,420,760.96 owed in interest for fiscal year 2013.

But it is only now as the Recession seems to slip further into the past that changes are finally being made at the state level to help protect against UI trust fund insolvency re-emerging the next time the economy takes a dip. While good for the states themselves, and potentially for their future economic health, many of these changes will re-invent the way employers think of unemployment claims.

And some will make it harder for nonprofits to opt out of their state unemployment tax in order to reduce the cost of unemployment at their agency.

For example, in February of this year, North Carolina Governor (R) Pat McCrory signed into law a comprehensive UI reform and solvency bill designed to take dramatic steps to eliminate the state’s remaining $2.5 billion Title XII Loan balance. The bill included significant changes that reduced the maximum benefit amount from over $500 to $350 per week, reduced the maximum weeks of benefits to a range of 12-20 weeks, and changed the calculation of the weekly benefit amount.

Other highlights from the bill included:

  • Employers who fail to respond to the state’s request for separation information more than twice will no longer be relieved from benefit charges that are erroneously paid out
  • After 10 weeks of benefits, any job offer paying 120% of the individual’s weekly benefit amount is considered “suitable work” (for those at the new maximum, that would be $420 per week)
  • Workers can qualify for benefits only if they leave work because their hours were reduced by 50%, instead of only 20% as the law previously stipulated

While certainly the most aggressive in taking steps to rebuild the state fund and prevent future UI fund insolvency, North Carolina isn’t alone.

In November of last year, Illinois enacted legislation that addressed their UI fund solvency by increasing bond authority in the state by $1 billion and planning ahead to use it as necessary to avoid more FUTA credit losses (the federal tax offset that states receive for repaying their loans on time) and interest charges for their UI loan from the federal government. Their federal loan is currently at zero.

Following suit, Wisconsin introduced a bill in late May that would: 1) change the state benefit collection standard so that discharged workers would be less likely to receive unemployment insurance payments if the former employer can establish that a worker was at ‘substantial fault’ for the termination, 2) require those collecting unemployment benefits to prove they are actively seeking work each benefit week, and 3) lessen the current number of acceptable quit reasons that allow claimants to collect unemployment benefits.

Michigan also joined the states reducing total weeks an applicant can collect unemployment and designing new bills to make it harder for claimants to collect benefits.

Even these seemingly small legislative changes can have a significant impact on how employers plan for unemployment charges against their organization though. Because in addition to lowering benefits paid out, many states are also looking to raise unemployment taxes on employers. And all states are passing legislation by October of this year to penalize employers for non-responsiveness or tardy replies to a state’s request for information on a claim.

“Some of these legislative changes might seem drastic, but essentially many states are just now catching up with the reality of our nation’s unemployment climate. For years states avoided those small incremental tax increases that could keep their unemployment funds afloat. So when a tidal wave of unemployment claims hit starting in 2008, many states were nowhere near properly funded,” says Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST.

Groh adds, “It’s our job here at UST to ensure that our nonprofit members know about these types of legislative changes, can properly prepare for them, and budget in advance. We’ve been actively educating our members through state-specific seminars and webinars on how states are implementing penalties for employers who fail to respond to claim requests on time. It’s just a matter of being well-informed.”

For employers, reducing the risk of penalty is, as Groh states, simply about being educated on the new laws and ensuring their organization is doing all it can to stay on top of unemployment benefits being paid out to former employees. Understanding the difference between employee separations that warrant benefits versus those that don’t is a clear advantage when it comes to reducing the cost of unemployment for an organization.

About UST: The Unemployment Services Trust helps 501(c)(3) organizations exercise their right to opt out of paying state unemployment taxes. Instead, member nonprofits only reimburse the state for their own claims. UST also provides members with claim administration, audits of benefit charges, claim hearing representation, educational seminars and HR support. They reach out to more than 20,000 nonprofits each year to educate them on unemployment law. Visit to learn more.
June 23, 2013

Meet US(T) Mondays- Jenn

Jenn- Marketing Coordinator

One month in…and I officially get to introduce myself for Meet US(T) Mondays!

When I first got involved with UST, I was ecstatic to help nonprofits advance their missions. My past two jobs took place at the UCSB Alumni Association and the Santa Barbara Zoo, both nonprofit organizations. Having witnessed firsthand the external and internal good nonprofits can accomplish, I figured UST was a perfect fit for me.

When I’m not working, and when I’m feeling productive, I love to bake, cook, hang out with friends, and go on beach-side runs. However, since I recently sprained my foot, my activities currently include sitting on my couch, watching reality television, and eating…a lot.

Speaking of my favorite subject (aka: FOOD), my favorite meals tend to include Mexican cuisine, pizza, or cheese in general. Since I was basically raised on fast food, my taste buds often reject most vegetables but never stop craving junk food. It’s kind of a curse, but I’m pretty content with my 8-year-old pallet.

However, my childhood didn’t just consist of Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. One of my favorite childhood memories is when my dad surprised me and took me to Disneyland on the rainiest day of the year. Although that sounds like hell to most people, the empty park, matching ponchos and endless rides on Splash Mountain made it completely unforgettable.

A close second favorite memory also takes place at Disneyland. At 5 years old, and my first visit to the park, I finally got to see Mickey…and then proceeded to knock him over in the hugging process. In fact, my family still greets me as “the girl who knocked over Mickey Mouse.” Which brings me to my next point; if I were a circus star, I would have to name myself Klutzo the Magnificent.

After breaking 4 bones (on 4 different occasions), knocking over Mickey Mouse, and rolling my ankle at my college graduation, one could make the argument that I have klutzy tendencies. And even though that's probably true, it hasn't stopped me from living my life to the fullest.

Want to share your clumsiest stories with me? Tweet me @USTTrust with the hashtag #MeetUSTMondays.
June 16, 2013

Retain to Sustain: How Your Employees Impact Your Nonprofit’s Mission

Retaining employees at your nonprofit saves time and money-- but are you doing it right?

Promoting your mission is the prime objective of a nonprofit organization. But because we’re often so preoccupied with business strategies and marketing elements, employers tend to neglect one key internal variable—the importance of employee retention.

Losing an employee results in decreased productivity, lost revenue, and excess time spent rehiring and retraining replacements. Since for-profit organizations often offer higher salaries, nonprofits must work twice as hard to actively and consistently engage their employees.

Rather than solely relying on typical motivational tools, such as office parties or bonuses, one must address the multitude of variables that could impact an employee’s job experience.

Here are 5 simple steps that can help increase retention rates.

  1. Be clear during the recruitment process. Before job candidates even get the job, specify what the expected responsibilities are and describe what the overall work atmosphere entails. If someone knows exactly what they’re signing up for, the odds of them staying are significantly greater.
  2. Create a 90 day plan. Have a decisive evaluation plan, broken down into ongoing time frames. Be sure to check in with new employees on a fairly regular basis in order to gage their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  3. Set realistic expectations. While you’re aiming for a smaller turnover rate, don’t shoot for 0%. Retain your strongest employees, but don’t be afraid to say goodbye to the weakest performers. Remember, the goal is toretain the strongest team possible in order to effectively promote your mission.
  4. Engage and interact with your employees. Develop a good relationship with your employees. Give your workers consistent feedback and don’t forget to commend them on their great job performances. When employees feel engaged, they are likely to be more driven and committed to their organizations.
  5. Play it safe—prepare for the worst. Since some employee departures are inevitable, recognize potential skill loss. Be sure to train invaluable skills to multiple employees so your organization doesn’t suffer if someone chooses to leave. Make sure your staff is well-rounded and prepared for any unpredictable turnover.

Having good retention requires a multifaceted plan. Retaining employees is a 365-day practice. Through consistency and overall engagement, nonprofit employers can maintain a positive, reliable work environment for everyone.

This snowball effect of employee efficiency and happiness is imperative for a nonprofit’s mission advancement and maintaining high retention rates.

Learn more about retention challenges and solutions here.
June 04, 2013

Didn’t Think They Could Collect Unemployment for That? You Might Be Wrong.

While reducing employees hours can reduce payroll, it might increase your unemployment insurance payments too!

Cutting employees’ hours may seem like an easy way to reduce costs, but if you didn’t think employees could collect unemployment for that, you might be in for a (not-so-good) surprise.

It seems like a simple way to avoid having to lay good employees off, and over the past few years many employers have turned to this popular alternative. While not necessarily ideal, for many organizations reducing employees’ hours has been a more palatable option and has allowed them to keep their best workers on staff.

But what many employers don’t realize right away is that reducing hours may not yield the anticipated savings.


When an employer reduces an employee’s hours as a result of the organization’s needs, the employee could be eligible to collect partial unemployment benefits for the loss in wages. And the state will include this in the chargeback liability attributed to the organization.

If you think reducing hours is still a quick and easy way to cut costs without laying anyone off, consider this. An employee is still eligible to collect partial unemployment benefits when:

  • They are “underemployed” i.e. working part time through no fault of their own
  • They are ready, willing and able to work full time
  • They have met the state’s minimum earnings or hours worked requirements

That’s why it’s incredibly important for nonprofit employers to carefully weigh the consequences of reducing hours, laying off employees, and/or using contractors before making any decisions about staffing changes. Often surprise charges can crop up when changes are made, so you will want to know what effect the unemployment claim charges may have on your organization’s benefit claims.

If you want to discuss how different staffing changes could affect your claims experience, you may want to look into membership in the Unemployment Services Trust (UST). 501(c)(3)s with 10 or more employees can find out if they qualify for membership, and receive the help of UST’s expert claims administrator to determine the impact of all staffing changes before actions are taken. It's been proven that using an unemployment claim administrator helps save an average 15% annually on costs! Call a UST expert at 1-888-249-4788 to learn more about membership.