Author Archives: BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence

About BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence

BVU engages businesses, employers and members of the community-at-large in productive and rewarding leadership and volunteer activities. By leveraging their involvement, BVU strengthens the leadership and expands the capacity of hundreds of nonprofits, while enabling businesses and employers to build strategic, powerful and enduring relationships with the community.

Technology resources every nonprofit should know about

Post by BVU Staff:  Melanie Meyer, Director, Communications and Technology

The availability of nonprofit technology is at an all-time high. Nonprofits have access to top-level research, tools and support at no or low cost.

Utilizing donations and services from these organizations, BVU has managed to save thousands of dollars in technology costs. Some top technology resources we have used over the years include:

Cloud Services
Are you ready to move your network to the “Cloud?”  If no, why not?  Moving to Microsoft 365 was the best technology decision we ever made.  4TechImpact made it easy and Microsoft 365 is free for nonprofits.

Tech Impact is a nonprofit whose mission is to ensure all nonprofits can use technology to better serve our world. At Tech Impact, their philosophy is “Cloud-First”. Cloud technologies are often the most cost-effective and sustainable solutions for nonprofits. The cloud makes enterprise-level technology affordable for nonprofits. Tech Impact is a Office 365 Cloud Champion Partner with over 40,000 users on-board, and has been named a top 3% Microsoft implementer. In addition to their cloud services, they also offer help desk, file and data management, and digital marketing assistance (or services).

Education and Research
Not sure what donor management software is right for you, faced with a 1large data migration project and not sure where to start, or need to choose an online conference tool? Idealware has done the research for you.

 idealware is a nonprofit  that provides thoroughly researched, impartial and accessible resources about software to help nonprofits make smart technology decisions.

Advertising Your Mission
We all know Google is the number one search engine, but did you know they 6offer a suite of tools tailored to nonprofits?  At minimum, you should claim your Google Ad Grant today, which is worth $10,000 a month in Google Adwords’ advertising.

Google for Nonprofits  offers organizations access to Google tools like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Ad Grants and more. Google Apps business productivity suite can help your  nonprofit run more efficiently, while Google Ad Grants can help you reach new donors and volunteers.

Software Donations
Microsoft led the charge in product donations through Techsoup 3Global.   Techsoup has been our “go to” for software needs.  Through their donated and discounted products, I estimate we have saved over $50,000 in software from Microsoft, Symantec, QuickBooks, Adobe and many more!

TechSoup offers nonprofits a one-stop resource for technology needs by providing free information, resources and support. In addition, they offer a product philanthropy service called TechSoup Stock, where nonprofits can access donated and discounted technology products provided by corporate and nonprofit technology partners.  Software is available to nonprofits at a fraction of the cost.  Donations from Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Symantec and many more. 

Most software and online tools offer a nonprofit discount.  Make sure you check for it before buying.  And if it isn’t on advertised, don’t be afraid to ask!


New Community Engagement Opportunity for Young Professionals in Akron

BVU YP Leader CorpsProgram Prepares Young Professionals to Grow, Connect and Lead Akron’s Nonprofit Community

BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence today announced a new opportunity for young professionals to become engaged leaders in the community. The YP Leader Corps is an educational program designed to provide young talent with leadership development training that will culminate with each participant being matched to serve on an Akron nonprofit board. The program is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“Akron wants and needs more young professionals to get involved in community leadership to encourage long-term engagement and attachment to the city,” said Kyle Kutuchief, Knight Foundation program director for Akron. “This program will help to do just that by fostering talented workers and introducing them to new opportunities to contribute through board service.”

Participants in BVU’s YP Leader Corps will attend a monthly, half-day workshop for three months. Topics covered will include trends in the nonprofit sector, leadership styles, mastering effective meetings and BVU’s acclaimed Role of the Board program.The young leaders will then participate in BVU’s signature board matching program that will align them with nonprofit boards that meet their interests and seeks their skills.

“We are excited to offer the YP Leader Corps program for young professionals who want a leadership role in advancing the Akron community,” said Brian Broadbent, President and CEO of BVU.

Young professionals interested in participating in the YP Leader Corps must be between the ages of 25 and 40, and submit a completed application on or before August 30, 2015. Fall 2015 program dates are October 6, November 3 and December 1. A portion of the program cost is being underwritten by Knight Foundation. The program is being offered for a fee of $500, which may be paid by the individual, his/her employer or a combination thereof. Scholarships are available.

For more information and to apply, visit or contact Elizabeth Winter at  330-762-9670, extension 1 or


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit


Corporate Team Volunteer Projects: Benefits, Planning and Impact

Post by BVU Staff:  Roseanne Deucher, Director, Business Engagement

BVU: The Center for Nonprofit ExcellenceMore and more businesses are encouraging their employees to get involved in the community. A CR Magazine and NYSE-Euronext Survey of over 300 companies found that 72% of respondents have corporate responsibility programs and that 77% say these programs will expand over the next three years. Businesses see corporate community involvement as an avenue for brand loyalty, employee engagement, and an opportunity to be viewed as good corporate citizen. BVU has seen this trend translate into an increase in corporate volunteer team projects in Northeast Ohio. In 2013, BVU business members completed almost 300 business team volunteer projects, a 28% increase from 2012.

A group project brings together a group of business volunteers to focus their combined energy, skills and talents to address a need in the community. Benefits for businesses and nonprofits are plentiful.

For businesses:

  • Team building for employees
  • Increased morale and retention
  • Opportunity to have a positive presence in the community

For nonprofits:

  • Raise awareness for the organization’s mission and services
  • Form a strategic partnership with the business
  • Complete a task which you might not otherwise have the resources to do
  • Big impact in a short amount of time

Planning is key to a successful team volunteer project. Our process varies, but here are a few components to help ensure that your project is a success for your team.

  • Volunteers need to feel connected to the mission of a nonprofit and the clients they serve. Survey your employees. What are their interests? What is the best time to get the most participation? Where are your employees currently volunteering?
  • Once you have an idea of how many employees will be participating and what their interests are, it’s time to plan your project. Understand that some nonprofits will have a difficult time hosting large numbers of volunteers, so consider dividing into smaller teams. Team building is sometimes better when small groups are given the opportunity to communicate and problem-solve together.
  • Visit with the volunteer site location beforehand and fully understand the nonprofit’s need. Don’t be shy about pointing out other areas where you might be able to help.
  • Details, details, details! To ensure the project’s success, carefully review and communicate details, from where to park to what to wear.

The day of the project approaches and the volunteers have arrived! Now it’s up to the nonprofit to make sure that the volunteer experience is a rewarding one. As the host for the project, you should:

  • Welcome volunteers and provide an introduction to your organization. Explain not only what your nonprofit does, but who you serve. In addition, whenever possible volunteers should have opportunities to connect with the clients being served.  Engage clients in volunteering side-by-side with the volunteers. If clients are not present, show photos/videos and tell personal stories to allow volunteers to connect the task with the people who will benefit.
  • Be clear on what is expected to be accomplished. Be available to volunteers to guide them and to answer questions.
  • As project host, you are expected to keep the project moving smoothly and communicating the importance of the tasks at hand. If a room is being painted, to the volunteer it’s just painting, but you need to remind volunteers that the fresh, clean paint will be seen and enjoyed by all the clients who use the room.
  • Conclude projects with a debrief. After the volunteers have completed their project, recap the day and allow volunteers to share their experiences. Everyone wants to be thanked – especially volunteers. Most businesses are not looking for a plaque. A simple verbal thank you at the end of a volunteer project can go a long way.
  • As follow-up, personalized thank you emails and notes from the consumers create an amazing personal touch. Share photographs and thank volunteer groups on social media. Here is a full list from Realized Worth on additional ways to say thank you.
Quote to be inline with next section. According to Lisa Jackman, Community Engagement Manager, Hyland Software, says, that “by encouraging our employees to use their time and talents to offer help and effect change, Hyland's efforts are much more impactful and meaningful for both the organizations we serve and our employees. Not only does this allow our projects to have a greater impact, it also allows employees to feel a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, inspiring them to give more – a win-win for both the nonprofit and the local community.

According to Lisa Jackman, Community Engagement Manager, Onbase  (by Hyland), says, that “by encouraging our employees to use their time and talents to offer help and effect change, Onbase’s efforts are much more impactful and meaningful for both the organizations we serve and our employees. Not only does this allow our projects to have a greater impact, it also allows employees to feel a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, inspiring them to give more – a win-win for both the nonprofit and the local community.

Businesses are measuring the impact of volunteer projects for its employees with factors such as employee satisfaction and engagement, skill development, and sales, recruiting and stakeholder effects.  How can you measure the impact of your project?

  • Start with the outputs and report the number of volunteers and volunteer hours. But go beyond and address what was accomplished during the project. Equate the number of volunteer hours to a dollar value. The Independent Sector value of a volunteer hour can assist you in doing this.
  • While you were helping the nonprofit, did you have suggestions for increasing efficiency? Is there a way for the nonprofit to use fewer resources – such as man hours or materials – in delivering its services?
  • Did helping the nonprofit increase their effectiveness and success rate of the services it provides? e.g., for a nonprofit fighting homelessness, the percentage of homeless people served that ended up sustainably housed.
  • Did you help increase reach? Did you expand the capacity of the nonprofit to serve more clients or expand programming?

Now, create your impact statement such as:

“If it weren’t for the volunteer team, nearly 100 families and children in crisis situations would ended their day hungry.”

“Because of the volunteer team…the nonprofit saved over $2,000 in staff time. This dollar amount is now being allocated to expand programming, increase client served, etc.”

“Volunteers did the project in 1 day, where it would have taken nonprofit staff 2 weeks to complete.”

What if your project wasn’t a success? Don’t give up! It takes time for us to fully understand the needs of nonprofits and our business members in order to make the perfect match. Take what you learned from this experience and apply it to make the next project a SUCCESS.

Nonprofit Merger and Collaboration: Open the Discussion


Post by BVU Staff:  Brian Broadbent, President & CEO

Two-and-a-half years ago Cleveland-based Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU) and Akron-based Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE) merged into one organization, BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence.  Looking back, this was a positive step for our organizations due to the strengths of each.  Although the merger process was not easy, we are enjoying the fruits of a vision led by our boards.  The CNE board reached out to BVU’s board to get the ball rolling.  A small task force of both boards and senior staff drove the process by openly discussing any roadblocks.  Because of its success, we have been asked to speak on the subject and help other organizations through the process.  Many community leaders want to see mergers happen but sadly they are a rarity.

Why are boards and staff resistant to explore options?  The Chronicle of Philanthropy published an article last month, “Mergers Might Happen More Often If Nonprofits Focused on Workers’ Needs,” authored by Katie Smith Milway and Maria Orozco.  This article gives valuable insights to what we have seen.  While the Great Recession of 2011 led corporations to pursue mergers at a fast pace, the nonprofit world did not follow suit.  They cite two facts: 1.) Few organizations exist to make matches between prospects, and 2.) Little money is available to ensure that the senior staff have financial incentives in that they may lose their jobs.  In 2009, Denise Zeman, President & CEO, St. Luke’s Foundation, and Deborah Vesy, President & CEO, Deaconess Foundation, invited 80 nonprofits in Northeast Ohio to discuss the spectrum of collaborations.  They were concerned about the decreasing availability of dollars from funders and the need to consider alternatives, one of which is mergers. These foundations offered to provide consulting support to nonprofits interested in exploring collaborations. The foundations’ leadership opened dialogue on a sensitive topic which resulted in three mergers and one consolidation.  However, since then it has been quiet.

Why the unwillingness to open this type of discussion?  Is it the loss of leadership roles for board and staff?  The daunting amount of work? Anxiety in negotiating with funders to prevent cuts in funding when two entities are combined with no loss of services?  Founders’ (board and staff) lack of flexibility? Name, mission, and branding of the new entity?  All are emotionally charged issues.  An unwanted outcome is that mergers could be reactive due to a depletion of cash reserves and lack of capacity — rather than being a proactive step.

In the next 10 years, hundreds of baby boomer nonprofit chief executives will retire.  This is an opportunity for new leadership to consider a merger or collaboration.  When conducting strategic reviews, we must always ask the question, “Are there better ways to advance our mission by working with another organization?  If so, what are the possibilities in aligning ourselves more effectively?”    It is up to the board and chief executive to determine if it a merger or collaboration is warranted. Remember that the act of an initial investigation does not equal commitment to moving forward.

The Foundation Center's nonprofit collaboration resource page provides a wealth of information on nonprofit mergers, joint programming, and other forms of collaboration.

The Foundation Center’s nonprofit collaboration resource  provides a wealth of information on nonprofit mergers, joint programming, and other forms of collaboration.

Considering a merger or collaboration?  Where do you start? Best practice is to look at complementary organizations serving different geographies or finding a continuum of services that could be expanded with the same constituency, with both leading to savings in administrative costs.  There are three stages of review.

1.  Feasibility – looking at the ‘fit’ of mission, service offerings, board structure, staff organization, geographic reach and culture.

2.  Due diligence – financial sustainability, HR policies and benefits, by-laws, etc. This is where the attorneys and accountants need to be involved.

3. Pre and post-merger integration – all of the steps that help the board and staff to integrate.

BVU and CNE addressed 66 integration steps.  Although daunting at the time, our merged organization has supported us in growing and delivering on our mission.  A valued, but unanticipated, outcome has been the respect of the community.

Cleveland Indians, The Volunteer Center at BVU again team up for Indians Volunteer Challenge



Volunteers can earn Indians tickets for working with local nonprofits; over 150,000 volunteer hours contributed in four years through Indians Volunteer Challenge

The Cleveland Indians and The Volunteer Center at BVU again will partner on the Indians Volunteer Challenge, which will reward those who volunteer in the Northeast Ohio community with tickets to select Indians games.

In the four years the Indians and BVU have partnered on the challenge, nearly 20,000 volunteers have performed over 151,398 hours of service in Northeast Ohio; that amounts to the equivalent of $3.35 million worth of service to local nonprofits.

“We remain committed to our community, and through the Indians Volunteer Challenge, our organization and BVU are able to positively impact our region through the many outstanding local nonprofits in the Cleveland area,” said Indians Executive Director of Community Impact Rebecca Kodysh.

Volunteers can register for the challenge at, and search for opportunities…

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Get the Governance Right – It Matters!

Post by BVU Staff:  Elizabeth Voudouris, Executive Vice President

Governance = Strong Nonprofit BoardOne key element of a healthy nonprofit organization is a strong board.  A strong board:

1. Can clearly identify its work and its role for a particular nonprofit at any point in time.

2. Is comprised of people who bring the relevant skills, expertise, diversity, networks and passion to get the job done.

3. Doesn’t just happen. It requires a tremendous amount of attention, creativity, strategy and patience.

Through our work with hundreds of nonprofit boards each year, we see that the strongest boards continue to develop and evolve good governance practices in order to provide relevant leadership.

Strong boards:

  • Focus on the best way to achieve the mission.  A crisis nursery developed a strategic plan that included a significant expansion project to serve more children and keep more families together. The success of the plan was dependent on using the strong marketing and business background of the CEO together with the board, whose duties were to expand networks and visibility of the organization in the broader community. The board also provided sound oversight for the growing programs and finances.
  • Concentrate on the larger opportunities and challenges facing the organization, and allow staff to manage the day to day operations.   A board identified and pursued potential strategic partners to ensure that their mission was preserved; they formed a strategic alliance with a similar organization, and eventually they merged.   Board members with the relevant skills and expertise led this process and ensured their good work continued.
  • Understand the relationship between board and staff, and the significance of a positive and healthy partnership.   Establish structures and practices to work effectively together.  Monthly communications from the chief executive to board members, annual individual meetings to help board members identify new ways to engage with the organization, constructive and thoughtful annual performance reviews, and open and transparent communications to build a culture of trust.
  • Plan for the board’s future.  The board develops annual succession plans and is always grooming future leaders.  Future leaders serve as committee chairs so that they can demonstrate their leadership to the board and staff, learn more about an important aspect of the organization, and determine if they have the time and/or interest to move into leadership.
  • Build committee structures that utilize board and staff time effectively.  Meaningful work is accomplished in strong working committees.  Strong working committees have an effective committee chair, strong staff support, annual calendar of meeting dates, annual priorities, and relevant agendas and publish minutes for the full board to view.  Strong committees are comprised of people who bring relevant experience, expertise, networks and diversity to the work of the committee.
  • Ensure that there is a viable business model and financial systems in place.  If this is not already in place, consider engaging a pro bono consultant.   BVU engaged a pro bono consultant to help a local nonprofit, and the consultant restructured all financial systems and reports, and developed a business model to sustain the organization’s diverse programs.  The pro bono consultant worked closely with the chief executive and the board, and eventually joined the board. This project gave the nonprofit the ability to attract larger grants and sustain programs that meet the needs in the community.
  • Prepare carefully for board and committee meetings.  Agendas and materials go out 4-7 days in advance.  Board meetings do not consist exclusively of presentations by committee chairs or staff, but instead are used to engage board members in meaningful discussions around topics that are relevant to the mission and vision.  Board members leave these meetings feeling informed, engaged, and confident that they are vital contributors to the future of the organization.
  • Regard each board seat as precious. Written board member expectations are clear to all current and future board members.  Board members are held accountable to those expectations annually.  Board member terms are not renewed automatically, but considered carefully based on the changing needs of the organization and interests of the board member.

There is no magic bullet or “one size fits all” solution for stronger boards.  BVU’s work with nonprofits over the years has given us great insight into effective practices and policies that can help strengthen an organization.  Strong boards take work, but by staying focused on your mission, the work of your board, and ensuring that you have the right board members sitting around the table,  your nonprofit can position itself to navigate today’s challenges and leverage future opportunities.

Be a Superhero – Think Pro Bono

Post by BVU Staff:  Judy Tobin, Director, Leadership Development

super hero

It is the start of the day and time to make all that magic happen again. You know that you do great work, you are appreciated and you actually enjoy your job, but at times you may, as we all do, struggle with finding inspiration for your work– day after day. I like to run after a long day at work, and recently an old (some of you may think ancient) song streamed into my ear phones. Although the beat was perfect for running, it almost made me stop in my tracks. In their song, Do it Again, The Kinks sing the following lyrics: “And you think today Is going to be better, change the world and do it again. Give it all up and start all over, you say you will but you don’t know when… Day after day I get up and say com on and do it again…” It made me think. What one thing will I do today that is different, interesting and positive compared with what I did yesterday? Many people find inspiration in helping others. Pro bono volunteerism is one way to feel good and share your area of expertise. The week of October 20th is Pro Bono Week. Taproot Foundation is leading many pro bono providers during this week to educate and inspire individuals and organizations to use pro bono services. Pro bono, which means for the public good, has been around for a long time – but it has been on the rise in the last few years! Nonprofit organizations are in great need of various types of expertise, in the form of volunteer consulting, to help sustain and grow their organizations to meet community needs. Business professionals, retirees and college students are jumping on the pro bono band wagon to find a different level of volunteerism. Typical pro bono engagements may be helping a nonprofit develop a technology road map, marketing plan or business plan, or even coaching a nonprofit executive. Engagements such as these require expertise in the areas of finance, marketing, IT, human resources, architecture and legal. Most projects are defined with a beginning and end in mind. WhatWorkersWant_InfoGraphic_800pxMany studies are showing that organizations that offer volunteer opportunities for their employees have greater retention rates and report higher levels of employee satisfaction. Likewise, many job seekers, particularly younger generations, are attracted to employers who make community engagement a company-wide priority. According to the 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey millennials who volunteer with their organizations are twice as likely to rate their corporate culture as very positive compared to those who do not volunteer. Net Impact’s Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012 states that they surveyed individuals who spanned the generations from students to baby boomers and found that workers with societal contributions at work reported a higher level of satisfaction at work (49%) compared to those who did not have volunteer opportunities through work (29%). Net Impact suggests that for job seekers, there are non-negotiable attributes (salary, location) and there are differentiators, such as the organization’s position on community engagement. Often times it’s differentiators, such as this, that will set employers apart, allowing them to attract and retain top talent. So, tomorrow when you wake up to “do it all over again” think about it from a different angle. Is there a nonprofit out there that could use your type of expertise? Where can you make an impact using your skills and expertise? To reference an REM song, which is still old but maybe not as ancient as the Kinks, put a new kind of inspiration into your work and be a Superman (or woman)!