Use these 3 Useful tools to save your Organization Money…..

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The non profit sector is filled with extraordinary people. Most of them caring and mission-driven. One area where the sector needs improvement, is developing a start-up attitude.  This is where non profits can learn from startup-ups. They can learn about doing things efficiently and cost effectively.  Over the years, I have found a few tools that I always recommend to my clients:

 

a. LawDepot

Law Depot is a subscription service that costs a whopping $75 dollars per year or so. It is a “depot” of contracts, agreements and legal resources, that I use over and over again. It gives me a starting point for all legal and business agreements and is super easy to use. I rarely use it without consulting a lawyer, but it does give me a foundation to start from, thereby reducing costs, plus it is super cheap. It is also based on Canadian law, which is a bonus. Check it out at https://www.lawdepot.ca/

b. AppSumo

AppSumo in itself is not a product, but a service. It lists “deals” for entrepreneurs–think Groupon for business. You can get incredible deals there on everything from social media tools to digital images. I have used this site to grab so many deals over the years I have lost count. One service I purchased, was Plannable. I was previously using Hootsuite. I was very happy with Hootsuite, but it was costing me over $20 per month.  Plannable sounded similar and I could get it for $49 forever. That means, I paid $49 once and have this tool as long as I want to use it.  A year later, I am still using it, and Plannable costs over $25 per month now.  See what I mean by costs savings? Definitely, sign up for this site. Get your deals at: https://appsumo.com/

c.Google

Not enough non profits take advantage of these free services. From email to server space, free Adwords and Youtube–I cannot say enough about this. Non profits are literally throwing away money by not utilizing these free services correctly. Did you know that as a non profit you potentially qualify for up to $10,000 in free Adwords? i.e you can advertise your services, events, and more to grow your organization and impact? Too few non-profits utilize this service correctly.Find out more at : https://www.google.com/nonprofits/

What other resources do you use? Drop us a line and let us know other great tools. As always feel free to reach out with questions, comments or inquiries at 519-520-3443 or email Carmen@ReimarGroup.com.

Upcoming Grant Deadlines

Dates to Note

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We are a little short on time this week,  so our post will just be dates to watch for some upcoming grants due in the next few weeks.

Gender based Violence Promising Practices to Support Survivors and Their Families- Due March 1 – http://swc-cfc.gc.ca/fun-fin/cfc-adc/2018-1/pp-en.html

Opportunities Fund-Projects to support Canadians with Disabilities- Due March 6-  https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2018/01/government_of_canadaacceptingprojectproposalstosupportcanadiansw.html

London Community Foundation Vitality Grants– Due March 20 http://www.lcf.on.ca/receive/community-fund-grant-programs/community-vitality-grant

As always we are available to help you develop a strategy for your project, assist with the application or just review it for you. Give us a call at 519-520-3443 or email carmen@reimargroup.com

 

 

 

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When Data Metrics and Non-Profits Meet

When data and Nonprofits meet.

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Over the last few years, many nonprofits have jumped on the data train. Some for the first time, either through their own efforts or through the coercion of funders, have begun to evaluate and track their data. Others, evaluate project to project, with no interconnectedness between evaluation systems. Others still, are fighting a losing battle and standing their ground, refusing to collect any data at all.

Welcome to nonprofits and data. Many of us who have worked in the sector have watched (with glee I might add) as non-profits finally started using data to tell their stories over the last few years. Generally, in the form of impact statements, these numbers talk about the total clients served, the social return on investment, or other comparable metrics.

 

 

Summative Vs Formative Data

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Much of the data organizations are using is summative in nature. It talks about what they have done over a time period. It has a discreet beginning and end, and talks about projects AFTER they are finished. It is like  analyzing a sports game, after the game, play by play. Summative assessments are also like tests teachers give in schools. They summarize what you know, and how you did.

In data driven organizations and in assessment culture, a different type of assessment is often used.  Formative assessment tools, such as those that occur in the middle of something, whether it is a unit of study, staff evaluations, project evaluations are a critical strategy that separate those who lead with data, compared to those who simply follow the pack.  What these data focused organizations have learnt, is that data can be used for learning, not just to assess what you have learnt. Let me rephrase. In the sector, we often use data to tell our story to our teams our funders and stakeholders and demonstrate why we are worthy of the dollars granted. One thing few organizations do well, is to use their data to analyze HOW they are doing in the middle of a project, or better yet, when nothing special is going on.

Why would organizations go through the trouble of collecting even more data, particularly data not required by funders?  Think of formative data, like a feedback tool. It can be used by staff and leadership to assess how each is doing. It is a learning tool, essential particularly to innovative organizations to see what works best, when and how. It can be used by leadership to assess big picture items, and by staff to assess and take control of their own performance.

What about the cost of collecting data?

 

 

This is an argument I get from most of my clients. Here is my canned response if you will.

First and foremost, data collection and analysis need not be expensive. Smart organizations can invest in automated tools that make this easier. Second, what is the cost of the mistakes you may be making? If you never measure, you never know. Third, your costs are only high on the front end. Once you adopt a data centric approach, costs in theory, should go down. Finally, time and time again, in my experience, the organizations who have the best data, get more grants and funding. They can tell their story better, they learn faster from their mistakes and develop overall, better programs and services.

How do I get started using data better?

 

 

If you have internal expertise, use it. Talk to individuals who have experience in program design, data design and collection. Join networking groups and communities of practice centered on this. Finally, hire or talk to an expert, internally or externally. Buy them a coffee. Most practitioners will gladly give you some free time.

Most organizations are still not using data as effectively as they can. Those who want to be leaders have discovered the power of data and use it well. Those who don’t risk being left behind in an ever more innovative nonprofit sector.

 

 

Have a question? Send us an email (carmen@reimargroup.com) or Connect with us on social media:

Facebook @Reimargroup

Twitter: @carmenreis

Linkedin/Carmenreis

Disclaimer: ReimarGroup is a consulting firm focused on organizational sustainability, program design and evaluation. We believe good data makes sense and creates more powerful organizations. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Summer Jobs Extension to Feb 9th, 2019

The Canada Summer Jobs Program Deadline is Tomorrow February 9th!

 

For any small businesses or not for profits looking for some extra help this Summer, The Canada Summer jobs program represents a great way to get funding to cover the expenses associated with hiring Summer students.  With the additional expenses associated with increases to minimum wage, fewer organizations will be hiring for the Summer.

 

How Much Funding Can I Get?

 

Not for profits get all of the wages associated with hiring a student. So up to $14 per hour. You are expected to cover the cost of CPP and EI.

Small Businesses get up to 50% of the cost of Minimum wage covered. While this is not as generous, it also enables you to get projects done that you might not have done otherwise. It sweetens the deal to help give young people work.

 

How Does the Application System Work?

The application system is done on a points basis. Non profits, and businesses with a social purpose will score higher, than those with a pure profit motive. Organizations hiring individuals from visible minorities, low income neighbourhoods, and/or those with barriers, will score higher than those who plan to hire just anyone.

You also get “points” if the position is vital and will help your small business to be more successful, if the student gains valuable work experience related to their degree, and if you offer training and/or mentorship.

Finally, you also get “points” for aligning your positions to the “regional priorities”, that is, in every constituency, there are priorities that politicians want to fund. In some, it is economic development, in others, fostering the arts. The list is unique to each MP’s region.  By connecting your roles to regional priorities, your chances of getting your grants are higher. The higher your “points” the higher your chance of winning.

 

When Do I Find Out?

 

Generally you would hear around mid-April. Remember, you cannot hire the student before that and expect the government to reimburse costs. The reimbursement comes only after you have received notification of the grant’s award.

 

Want help completing your application? Contact our team and we are happy to help you get your application done and submitted on time.  Our fees start at $197, and increase with the number of positions. Email us at Carmen@reimargroup.com, or call 519-520-3443.

Winning an OTF Seed Grant

How do You Win an OTF Seed Application?

Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) grants are due February 21 and they represent a great opportunity for non profits and charities to pilot new ideas, adopt new programs or develop conceptual models to a new region.  Seed Grants are about experimenting, trying new things and changing existing models to work in a different way.  Many regional organizations have started their programs as an OTF Seed Grant and have gone on, to obtain funding from different funders.

Having won several OTF Seeds in the last few years, looking back, there are a few key ingredients that go into a successful Seed Application.

1. Identifying your Priority Outcome and Metrics

First and foremost, you need to ensure that you select the appropriate priority outcome. This outcome is WHAT your project will accomplish, for WHOM and HOW.  There are metrics that go with each outcome but selecting the right one for your project can be tricky. It often takes lots of discussion, and really focusing in with your team on the metrics you will use and how. The use of 3rd party sounding board is often useful.

2. Summarizing your Impact in 250 words

Seed Grants do not give you a lot of room. You need to ensure that you are succinct, and able to state your problem and solution in very few words. You do not have room to become a Russian novelist. The impact you hope to have, needs to be phrased in a clear confident tone. You need to be able to link your program design to your potential incomes. It needs to be linear and to make sense. You have about 250-500 words in most text boxes; make the most of it.

3. Using Statistics

Knowing how and when to use statistics in your story-telling is very important.  Very often it is that one fact, statistic or number that can swing an application. The trick is not to overuse statistics, but use them for impact and story-telling in the right places in your application.

4. Using the Attachments!!!!

I often find my clients do not know what to do with the attachment sections of the application. If they are there, you need to try to find a use for them. It is not about simply uploading irrelevant content. Attachments need to have meaning for your project. They are needed to help explain the problem you are addressing, demonstrate the solution, or enhance the story. So find a way to incorporate them.

 

5. Demonstrating strong links to Mission and Strategic Plan

It is essential that your projects link back to your Mission and Strategic plan.  Your project needs to demonstrate forethought and links to your organizational goals.  Even if you are writing your Seed project the night before (yes, this happens a lot), with creativity, you can still link the project to the Mission and strategic actions of your organization.

 

If you incorporate these points, your chances of being successful are a lot higher. At least, you will be on track to develop a strong project outline and be able to communicate it well in your application.

 

If you would like a second set of eyes on your application, or would like assistance in preparing it, don’t hesitate to reach out 519-520-3443 or drop a line to carmen@reimargroup.com.

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(The opinions expressed herein are in no way connected to OTF, nor by following the opinions expressed are you guaranteed to be successful).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OTF Seed Grant Registration Deadline -Jan 31

Your OTF Registration

 

The Ontario Trillium Foundation-OTF- Seed Grant Registration deadline is coming up on January 31st. What this means is that if you and/or your organization is interested in applying for a seed grant, you need to have your organization registered by the end of January.

 

Registration, involves getting together some vital organizational info, that will provide a window into both the health and finances of your organization. Completing this registration involves filling in an organizational profile. The profile captures information such as your current Board of Directors, your contact address, who the designated signing officers are, and whom OTF should correspond with.

 

You also have to fill in more logistical information such as your banking, charitable/non-profit business numbers, website and whom your executive are.

Financial Statements

Next, you have to provide an overview of the programs you run, your mission, your community impact,  and your total staff and volunteer contributions.  Finally, for organizations that are under $50,000 in annual revenue, financial statements for the last year are required. For those over $50,000, financial statements prepared by an OUTSIDE accountant are required.  This means you must have someone with a CPA designation complete a review of your organizational books.

 

This last component, is the one that I have found most of my small/start-up non profits have difficulty with.  Small organizations do not often have the funds to pay an accountant, yet without the financial statements, they do not qualify for most types of provincial funding.  This conundrum, is one, that with some creativity, can be navigated. You might approach a CPA, about offering you a non-profit discount. You could also, seek out a retired CPA, that retains their designation, that might be willing to do it for free. Most organizations, through their board, or other networks, have a CPA in their Rolodex that are able to offer this type of service.

 

It is highly recommended that you refer to OTF’s registration requirements checklist page (https://otf.ca/sites/default/files/org_reg_checklist.pdf) and ensure that you email them with any questions.

Next week, we will look at how to successfully answer a seed grant application.

 

Why Did You Become an Entrepreneur?

What Made You Decide to start your own Small Business?

Why did you take the plunge?

I often get asked why I became an entrepreneur? Why did I start my own company? I could answer that I grew up in an entrepreneurial home, with a father who ran his own business for years.  I could answer, that the change agent  in me did not like working for large corporations and instead wanted to build my own business and make things happen. However, neither of these reflect reality. My answer, much to the surprise of most, is  that I became an entrepreneur out of necessity.

Throughout my professional career, I found entrepreneurship to be the one constant that I could keep coming back to.

I first started working for myself during graduate school as a way to make ends meet. I had worked for nearly 3 years in industry doing market research, proposal writing, financial analysis and marketing and sales. I brought these varied skills to entrepreneurs and started working with green energy companies at the time helping them re-write and re-design marketing materials.  After that, I kept doing the occasional business or marketing plan.

“Throughout my life, I always found entrepreneurship to be the one constant I could keep coming back to.”

I was home on maternity leave with my daughter and throughout this, worked on several projects to keep me busy. When my daughter was 6 months old I found out I was pregnant again. This barred any return to work.  Within another month, my husband found out that he was losing his job.  After the initial shock wore off, we began to think how we were going to manage.

Being the industrious type, I immediately began to seek out projects to work on to keep myself busy.  I tried different types of outsourcing and contracting, but time was limited with two kids under 18 months. I found quite a bit of success in writing business plans. Part, education, part experience, and part intuition I could relate to the entrepreneurs I met. I could understand their pain, as I had seen it before in my father and his colleagues understood, what I like to call “the entrepreneur crazy”, fever and passion all in one that these entrepreneurs had for their businesses. I was inspired by their energy and dedication and genuinely loved working with them.

At the time, I decided to return to school to improve my financial analysis skills. I pursued a designation in  accounting, a designation that focuses on strategy. I returned to work for 18 months as a requirement of the designation, but hated every position I was in.  After having worked for myself, I had a difficult time working for anyone else. Perhaps it was a distaste of authority, or as I like to call it of the “inefficiency” of large organizations, but I was not a happy camper during these times.

At home, my children were suffering too. They had wonderful caregivers, but they were not mom. I was seeing changes in their behaviour that I did not like. These combined with my own unhappiness, made for a very miserable home life for my poor husband. Night after night of miserable conversations, my husband just said, why don’t you quit.  While I was working for others I had continued working on several large consulting projects. It was in these projects that I found my passion again.  I took his advice to heart and took the leap.

That was four years ago.  Since then I have worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, helping them to define their businesses and their dreams.  There is no going back for me now.  This is what I love to do, and want to do for the rest of my life.

What is your reason? What is your drive and motivation for working on your own? Why do you want to leave it all to begin a consulting career?  What will your motivation or dream be?  Perhaps like most of us, the decision is not a grand vision or altruistic social purpose but out of necessity, out of life change and a need to learn to fend for ourselves.

What Value does your Incubator add?

What is the Value-add of Incubators?

Over the last decade, incubators have been popping up all over the country. There are economic development incubators, venture capital incubators and industry specific. On the tech side, Accelerators are the newest label to be put onto incubators. Despite all of this growth, one question that seldom appears to emerge, is “What value does your incubator add”?

What is the value of your incubator

The concept of “value added” is one that rarely emerges in the ever changing world of technology. Value added is no longer “trending” in this world of “build it and they will come”, yet the concept of value add is one that all companies, regardless of industry, company age or experience need to maintain to ensure their long-term success.

Value add is simple, it is the value that you create for your users, your customers and market. It is what makes you different and special in a world filled with competition. It is the service you provide, that has a real, tangible outcome.

In the case of incubators, what is the value add?  Most would say for technology incubators, it is the networks, the social connections, the ability to facilitate the flow of capital and investment to young entrepreneurs to commercialize their products/services. Every VC is seeking the next dropbox or Facebook. The job of incubators and accelerators is to function as the intermediaries (middlemen) of old, and connect these two resources.

3 Key Differences

1. While the connection to capital, is most certainly an important value added service, in other circles-mainly those crazy socialist Europeans (note the sarcasm here) are more concerned with a firms longevity rather than its immediate bottomline. The reasons are both social and historical, but it is sufficient to note that Europeans tend to be less concerned with concepts such as quarterly returns, and more concerned with yearly, and multi-year returns. They pioneered concepts of “patient capital” and social innovation. Where North American incubators are connecting individuals to capital, European are offering business support services-Entrepreneurship training, business administration support & yes, financing.

2. Europeans also tend to be more invested in the “entrepreneur” rather than the idea. Rather, than focusing on finding the next facebook, they seek to find the next Mark Zuckerburg. What an original concept, invest in people and the results will come.

3. Finally, more European incubators then tend to invest for longer, in these companies (3-5 years) to get the returns they seek.  They are not so much concerned with getting the current cohort out the door, and finding the next batch. The long-term investment is to ensure the long-term success of the company, and the people who work for it.

What differences do these entrepreneurial models create in the end company? What metrics should be used to evaluate incubators? MARS recently released a report calling for an IMPACT metric for measuring incubator success. The time has come to measure and demand outcomes. Standards need to be created for education, program and service offering and not just simply seeking the next high tech dollar.

 

Demographics and Your Business Plan

The term for some of you may conjure up images of university classrooms and painful modelling excercises. For others, the term might imply some kind if research to do with population, but most certainly nothing to do with your business plan.

What if I told you that demographics should form the basis of your ENTIRE business plan. That if you have not addressed the demographics of your plan that you are doomed to fail?

Before you think I’ve lost my marbles, or worse, before you start to freak out and start “Googling) the term Demographics, sit back and read the following. Demographics are no more than your customers. Most would call this market research, but I prefer the term Demographics because in my experience most people DO NOT do their market research properly (if they did-half of the businesses we see fail would never have been launched in the first place).

Demographics, to cite Wikipedia, “Demographics are current statistical characteristics of a population” and Demographic Trends ” Demographic trends describe the historical changes in demographics in a population over time (for example, the average age of a population may increase or decrease over time). Both distributions and trends of values within a demographic variable are of interest. Demographics are about the population of a region and the culture of the people there.”

So if we are to understand the WIKIPEDIA definition, Demographics provides us with information about a population and the culture of the people who live there.

This is a very powerful statement. Demographic trends not only give us insight into whether populations are increasing or decreasing, but they also tell you about the area.

Let’s go through an example. Years ago, I moved into a new subdivision. New subdivisions tend to draw young, newly married or co-habituating couples if housing prices are close to their actual market value. A couple of years later in the middle of the night, I could not find my infant son’s soother and so had to run to walmart to find a 0-6 month soother. When I got there, not only were there no soothers in that age range, but also no size 1 diapers. Talking to the sales associate, and she said, “we just can’t keep this stuff in stock” I have no idea what it is”. Fast forward a few years, and he was preparing to enter school, the local school was talking about the “boom” in enrollment and chalked it up to the excellent reputation of the school.

You probably get where I am going wiht this. The new couples who moved in had babies, those kids grew up and went to school. So why might this info be useful if you are opening a business? Well let’s say you want to open a neighbourhood daycare. It would be wise to know the age of your subdivision. Why? Because in starter neighbourhoods, couples tend to stay an average of 3-7 years in their first home. After that they may disperse. Newly married people will have their first child within 1-5 years (generally) so if you open in a neighbourhood where there are a lot of children or young married couples, you are assured constant business (as was the case with a neighbor). However, if you open your daycare in a more established neighbourhood, you will have to search further for clients and have a marketing strategy that makes up for the lack of proximate customers.

So how does one begin to navigate this minefield of information? Before we begin, I think it is important that we begin to understand the very nature of entrepreneurship and I will tell you about some entrepreneurs that I know and what entrepreneurship means to them.