Indigenous People’s Day Celebrations in Berkeley, CA

DID YOU KNOW? The long-celebrated “Columbus Day” is becoming more commonly recognized across the country as “Indigenous People’s Day.” Columbus day, often assumed to be an age-old holiday, was actually first celebrated relatively recently in the history of the United States. While Christopher Columbus may have landed in the Americas in the fifteenth century, the first Columbus Day was not officially recognized in the U.S. as a federal holiday until 1937, long after the country’s independence. According to an article in Nonprofit Quarterly, the official recognition of the holiday was due in large part to intense lobbying from newly politically powerful Italian Americans. Today, however, many have taken issue with the dedication of a day to a historic figure who owned and tortured slaves and incited mass genocide of Native American populations. “For us, the bottom line is Columbus Day is just a celebration of genocide,” said Roberto Borrero, the president of the United Confederation of Taíno People, a group from the Caribbean – 85 percent of whom died in the early sixteenth century due to conquest violence and disease. This recent pushback against the celebration of Columbus Day made way for the emergence of “Indigenous People’s Day,” which began to gain popularity in the early 1990s. The City of Berkeley, California, declared Indigenous People’s Day a holiday as early as 1992, appropriately on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Bahamas. This day, which aims to replace Columbus Day on the second Monday of October, has been officially recognized by four states (Minnesota, Vermont, Alaska, and South Dakota), sixty cities, and many other institutions as of last year. This year, several more cities, including Los Angeles, made the switch as well. But before planning your organization’s Indigenous People’s Day celebrations for 2019, check out these nonprofit headlines from the week.

1. (Dis)Trustworthy

An article in Nonprofit Quarterly identifies public distrust in charity as a possible contributor to the recent decline in household giving. A similar trend in public distrust is gaining attention in the United Kingdom (UK). Tina Wendy Stowell, a leader in the House of Lords and the new Chair of the UK’s Charity Commission, is attempting to combat this distrust in the hopes of strengthening the nonprofit sector in the country. In a speech given this week, Stowell emphasized the Commission’s role in holding charities accountable to the public interest in order to inspire and maintain trust. According to Robert Booth, Social Affairs Correspondent of The Guardian, Stowell warns charities that they need to invest in gaining their communities’ trust now more than ever if they hope to sustain giving rates, since they “no longer enjoy a monopoly on people’s altruistic impulses, with crowdfunding, peer-to-peer apps and social enterprises offering competition.” With more opportunities than ever to give, your organization might need to consider increasing the transparency of your operations and finances to inspire the trust of your supporters and ensure donor retention. Avoiding extravagance and unnecessary spending, gathering feedback from supporters, and making access to financial information more accessible to the public will make your nonprofit stand out from social enterprises competing for your donors. While many assume the recent decline in number of charitable donations to be a result of the new tax reform policies on charitable deduction, others suggest that declining public trust in the nonprofit sector could be playing a larger role than we think. To find out more about what the U.K. is doing to reverse this trend and what we can learn from this, click the link above.

2. Are You Prepared for a Potential Board Transition?

Most leaders know that a well-run board can be critical to an organization’s success. But what if, either due to an ending term limit or unforeseen circumstances, a board member must leave his/her position? Even an organization with the most dedicated, experienced, and effective board can run into trouble when a board member has to step down for one reason or another, especially if there is no succession process in place. While sudden vacancies do occur, you are probably more likely to face a board transition due to the end of a member’s term. Establishing set term limits for your board members will allow your nonprofit to find board members that believe in your mission and will make positive contributions to your charity. A post from the National Council of Nonprofits encourages organizations to establish such a process to ensure board transitions are seamless and produce the most qualified replacements. After identifying potential new board members, the next and slightly more challenging step is actually recruiting them. To cultivate and test out new board members to ensure they will be a fit for your organization, try inviting them first to serve in other volunteer positions. This will not only allow you to assess the potential member’s capabilities and commitment, but also for him/her to get acquainted with your mission and your leadership style. Once you have determined that someone is a fit, begin by outlining clear expectations for the position so that there is no confusion about the time commitment required after the new member accepts. Even your most qualified candidates are unlikely to be successful if they do not have the time to devote to your cause. For more information on the board transition process and what your organization could be doing now to effectively recruit qualified candidates in the future, check out the link above.

3. CA Signs Bill to Put More Women on Boards

Speaking of board compositions. California recently became the first state to mandate that at least one woman serve on the board of directors of publicly traded companies.  Signed by Governor Jerry Brown just this week, the bill requires public companies with executive offices located in the state to adhere to the law by the end of next year. According to the bill, the minimum number of women on a board is slightly higher for organizations with over five and over seven members, who will need to maintain a board with at least two women and three women respectively. Yet while the bill enjoyed significant support, many are now claiming it is both an unfair expectation and legally questionable. According to an article from National Public Radio (NPR), California's Chamber of Commerce and 29 other business organizations have come out in opposition of the bill on the grounds that it does not take into account other types of diversity and it attempts, unconstitutionally, to “manage the directors of companies that are incorporated in another state.” Regardless of whether the new law withstands challenges, many in the nonprofit sector have recently spoken out about the benefits of having women serving on an organization’s board of directors. An article published last week in Nonprofit Quarterly lists the results of a survey done by the Hampton-Alexander Review that asked firms about their lack of women board members. Among the “ten worst reasons” they reported in the survey were comments like: “Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”; “My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board”; and “All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up.” Many might react to such statements from corporate leaders with disbelief that anyone in the nonprofit sector would respond in a similar way; yet, gender disparities in board compositions do not only exist in the for-profit world. While women served on 43 percent of nonprofit boards in 2015, this percentage drops to 33 percent when looking at organizations with revenues of $25 million or more. So, before pointing the finger at the for-profit sector, take a good look at female representation on your boards and join the movement begun in CA to fight this gender disparity. To read more about CA SB826 and why some are already fighting its implementation, take a look at the article from NPR linked above. To read more of the “ten worst reasons” some claim that women are “not suitable” for board membership and how the nonprofit sector can set an example in changing such perceptions, check out this article from Nonprofit Quarterly.

4.  Digital Assets: The Latest (and Riskiest) Way to Give

More and more larger charities have begun accepting digital assets as donations – often in the form of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Silicon Valley Community Foundation, one of the country’s largest charities reportedly held a third of its $13.5 billion investments in digital assets, according to an article in Nonprofit Quarterly. This trend has in part been attributed to the increased proportion of giving being done by a small group of wealthy donors, who typically hold more digital assets than smaller-scale donors. Yet while the giving of digital assets has been taking place for many years now, a recent hike in the giving of cryptocurrency specifically – after the IRS decision in 2014 that equated digital currency to a form of investment property – has brought unprecedented risk to the situation. Digital currency can prove extremely volatile. The bitcoin crash of early 2018, for instance, came as a shock to most, who had been watching the currency rise by 1,318 percent against the US dollar in 2017. In fact, The Conversation reported that “some charities that received massive cryptocurrency donations in 2017 may not have been able to convert them into regular money before they lost much of their value the next year.” Yet the volatility of these assets is not the only risk they post to nonprofits. Exchanges that hold these cryptocurrency investments are also in danger of being hacked, and regulators still face widespread compliance problems. So, if your organization is considering dealing with digital assets, proceed with caution. Take extra care to determine your donations’ risk-adjusted returns to determine if your organization is capable of taking on such a risk. Still, as the development of cryptocurrencies is relatively new, we will likely need to wait and see exactly how the government chooses to regulate such currency before calculating the exact risk it will carry for the nonprofit sector. To find out more about risks involved in accepting and managing cryptocurrency as donations, take a look at the link above.

5. ‘Tis the Season

As the holiday season approaches, your organization might want to consider establishing a Fall email marketing campaign to capitalize on end-of-the-year patterns of increased giving. According to online fundraising platform Classy, around 34% of all charitable giving is done between October and December. Clearly there is strong reason to invest in greater communication efforts toward the end of the year. But before unpacking the decorations just yet, take a minute to look into what has and has not been successful in certain campaigns so as not to repeat the mistakes of failed past endeavors. Classy recently published a list of holiday “dos and don’ts” for end-of-the-year nonprofit marketing strategies. Among other “dos,” it suggests that nonprofits increase the frequency of their requests for donations toward the end of the year to attract donors seeking to make their tax-deductible gifts before December 31st. It also encourages nonprofits to deliver hyper-targeted emails that segment personalized messages into categories based on last donation size, last donation date, volunteer status, and more. Another “do” advises nonprofits to split donor categories and test certain email variables (i.e. different subject lines, donate button placement, type of visual content), changing only one variable at a time and adjusting email styles based on the data you receive. Just as important as what to include in your Fall giving campaign is what not to include. Classy warns organizations not to give vague calls to action or send emails with average, unnoticeable subject lines, in order to have the best possible chance of standing out in inboxes that are likely jam-packed with dozens of other end-of-the-year requests for donations. It also urges nonprofits not to forget to analyze “open and click through rates” so as not to continue hounding those who have already given or potential donors that haven’t opened your emails in weeks. Finally, it suggests that organizations make sure to optimize emails for the “small screen” so that donors who are on the go can easily read your messages – and even donate – from their mobile devices. To find out more “dos” and “don’ts” of holiday marketing and why a successful holiday campaign might significantly improve your year-end fundraising, visit the link above.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To learn more about the history of Columbus Day and the newly recognized Indigenous People’s Day, check out this article.

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