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Golden Rules for Keeping Your Board Members Engaged

Board EngagementYour nonprofit has a strong mission with a heartwarming story that needs to be shared with the world. Yet, this requires passion and involvement.

Enthusiastic board members are the golden ticket to success and growth. Promote engagement with these three rules.

1. Instill Board Member Passion

Get your board not only excited, but also passionate about core organizational values. As your number-one advocates, their energy will trickle down to others.

In our recent report, Cathy Ferguson from Girl Scouts of Central CA South said, “Make sure you recruit passionate people and let them know what the expectations are up-front regarding time commitment, fundraising expectations and attendance at events and attendance requirements for the Board.”

In addition, better connect members with the mission by giving opportunities to:  

  • Establish custom mission plans for each board member. Individual guidance on organizational alignment will help your board relate to your nonprofit on a more personal level.
  • Have hands-on experience at events and fundraisers. The more involved board members are, the better they will understand your nonprofit’s importance.
  • Re-evaluate expectations and alignment with organization values. Conduct evaluations every six months to a year to reengage and realign the board with their responsibilities and purpose.

2. Stress Communication

No matter how structured your organization is, you cannot excel without quality communication skills. Maintain effective communication across your organization:

  • Create a sense of transparency and trust. Be honest with board members about their expectations and performance, and make data and information easily accessible.
  • Encourage involvement. Challenge board members to get involved. If they feel they are an important asset to your nonprofit, they will become one.
  • Document responsibilities: Clearly communicate responsibilities to your board to avoid unnecessary confusion. Provide them with a clear path to success.
  • Meet regularly to provide organizational updates. Sit down face-to-face on a routine schedule that works best for you and your board members. Provide updates on goals, events, processes, etc. so everyone is in the loop.
  • Utilize board management technology. Board portals are a great way to streamline and centralize communication across the entire organization.

3. Utilize Skills and Expertise

What better way to get your team engaged than letting them shine? Encourage board members to showcase their strong points and help them excel within your organization:

  • Champion creativity during meetings. Inspire board members to share thoughts and ideas, and then involve them when bringing concepts to life.
  • Align roles and duties to areas of expertise. Ensure responsibilities are clearly documented. Use a skills matrix to determine who is the best fit for each role based on interest and qualifications. 
  • Provide resources to enhance skills. Especially for junior boards, offer training sessions and professional development opportunities to expand knowledge.

Board members are your most valuable assets; don’t hold them back from their true potential. Board member, Liz Ortenburger from Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada stated, “Commit to your board. Help your board members pursue their personal and professional interests.” 

Want to learn more on how to improve board member engagement? Download our free guide, “Board Member Tips and Tricks: A Community Curated Guide.”

Download the Board Management Tips Guide  

How do you keep your board members engaged? Share with us in the comments below.

Image Source: John Benson


Open Government: Views from Across the Globe

4607812450 47fa6a4239 m 2Open data polices, such as the United States' DATA Act, increase citizen participation, collaboration and transparency in the government. They also make individuals and organizations more accountable for their actions.

This post outlines open government policies from around the world compared to those of the United States.

United States Open Data Initiatives

Over the years, the United States has made great strides in governmental transparency. Although policies and regulations are still in the early stages of enactment, the United States is considered to be one of the leading countries supporting the use of open data. Currently, federal and state policies require and encourage stakeholders to:

  • Better facilitate data access.
  • Expand efforts to build improved government digital services.
  • Enable data to be searchable and machine-readable.
  • Publish government revenue, expenditure, employment and contract data.

 When data is publicly accessible, it becomes easier for nonprofits and citizens to:

  • Review eligibility requirements, and apply for grants and loans.
  • Search for and share government information.
  • Utilize digital services for real time, automated self-service data.

The Open Government Partnership

The United States may be on top of the game when it comes to open data implementation, but it isn’t the only country pursuing government transparency. The Open Government Partnership (OGP) includes 65 nations that share the following goals:

  • Accountability: Assure governmental figures can justify actions and take responsibility for failures to perform in the eye of the law or commitments.
  • Citizen participation: Encourage citizens to contribute opinions and ideas that can lead to more effective governance.
  • Technology and innovation: Provide citizens with open access to technology, and encourage the use of innovative technology platforms.
  • Transparency: Make government activities and decisions available to the public, and meet open data standards.
Specific global examples from participating partnering countries include:  
  • Brazil, Paraguay, Ireland and Sierra LeoneEstablishing new and improved freedom of information laws and policies.
  • Canada: Targeted 18 policy departments and central agencies to establish a government-wide stocktaking of federal data holdings.
  • Greece: Has publicly committed to boosting public engagement, enhancing public resources management, and opening data to improve transparency.
  • Mexico and Bulgaria: Putting spending information online to allow citizen taxpayers to view how money is spent.
  • Netherlands: Created a seventeen-action-item plan to spur “transparency, responsiveness and open access to information.”
  • Sweden: Launched Open Aid in 2011 to better adapt to opportunities created by globalization and technology.
  • Peru: Launched anti-corruption measures to convict public officials of crimes.
  • Ukraine: Passed the policy “Law on Administrative Services” and created 140 administrative regional centers to uphold good governance.
  • United Kingdom: Committed to create a publicly available central registry, containing information on owners and beneficial owners of all UK businesses.

With global collaboration and thought leadership comes the opportunity for countries to band together to enhance the quality of open government laws and regulations.

For more on the open data movement, download our free ebook, The Path to Open Data: Why Cities and Counties Are Sharing More Resources and Information Than Ever Before. 


The Path to Open Data


What are your thoughts on new open government policies? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Source: Steve Johnson

The DATA Act: One Year Later

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Last year, the DATA Act was passed to increase government spending transparency and accountability through improved grant and contract reporting.

Since signed into law on May 9, 2015, much progress has been made. This post highlights key success factors and challenges, and outlines what to expect in the coming months.


Over the past year, the government has strived to meet the DATA Act’s overarching open data goals via the following achievements:

  • Designated the OMB and Treasury to oversee implementation. An Executive Steering Committee, supported by an Interagency Advisory Committee (IAC), is set to govern implementation.
  • Compiled list of FFATA and DATA Act data elements. Public and private stakeholders were invited to discuss and share opinions on the data elements and data exchange standard via a GitHub portal.
  • Introduced 57 data standards for agencies. On May 8, 2015, the Treasury and OMB began to roll out data standards to guide DATA Act implementation; they also introduced a playbook of compliance recommendations. Standards will continue to be developed based on additional public input.
  • Conducted a town hall meeting to ensure transparency and collaboration. Held in the fall of 2014, the event was attended by representatives from federal agencies, state and local governments, and the industry at large. It was just one of many stakeholder outreach briefings held since the Act’s signing.
  • Selected the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to lead the DATA Act pilot program. The pilot program will help the government effectively test DATA Act implementation, allowing officials an in-depth understanding of what works prior to large-scale rollout.


With any new law, there will be challenges along the way. Some of the main setbacks from the past year have been: 

  • Limited resources. Reconstruction of internal processes on an already tight budget may cause setbacks for agencies, making the transition process difficult.
  • A need for strong collaboration between numerous public and private stakeholders. Implementation of the DATA Act will require all parties involved—OMB, Treasury, federal agencies, nonprofits, software providers, watchdog groups, etc.—to work together cohesively for a smooth transition.
  • Short implementation timeline. Agencies will be required to integrate new regulations into their systems by May 2017.
  • Uncertainty at the recipient level. There has been confusion among grant recipients in terms of what regulations entail, making it difficult for them to prepare for compliance. Although some standards have been introduced, not all are finalized.
  • The Small Company Disclosure Act. Proposed by Representative Robert Hurt in 2014, the bill prevents the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) from using extensible business reporting language (XBRL), claiming high expenses for smaller companies. If passed, it could hinder open data initiatives.

What Lies Ahead

So what do all these achievements and challenges mean for the future of open data? Expected action in the next couple years:

  • The launch of the two-year HHS pilot program begins this month (May 2015) to test the ability to standardize spending data. Within 90 days of the pilot’s closing in 2017, a report will be filed on key findings.
  • The Data Transparency Coalition will host its second summit in June 2015 to examine DATA Act status. From there, government officials will be able to elaborate on weaknesses and identify areas to improve implementation.
  • The Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act, reintroduced on April 22, 2015, is currently under reconsideration.
  • In 2016, inspectors general will publish reports that document the completeness, timeliness, quality and accuracy of each agency’s spending data.
  • By 2017, agencies will be required to report based on standardized regulations; you can expect to see data published on USA in 2018.

For a better understanding about what your organization can expect from these federal initiatives, download our free fact sheet. 

Download Your Free Copy of the Federal Grant Regulations Guide.  

How is your organization preparing for open data regulations? Share with us in the comments below.

Image Source: Tim Evanson

Having the Right Data for Grants Management Software Implementation

DataProperly imported and configured data lays the foundation for accurate grant reporting and organizational compliance. Therefore, an important part of the grants management software set-up process is the initial data transfer.

Read on for details on how to keep your data organized. 

    1. Save Historical Grant Files and Records

      While it’s necessary to have historical files and records on hand for future reference, these do not need to be migrated into your new grants management software. We’ve found that the time and effort needed to relocate this data is often not worth the gains.

      Instead, we encourage you to save old files in a systemized fashion, and then focus on keeping current and future grants up-to-date in the new platform.

        2. Import Current and Future Grant Data

          Data is typically transferred via a series of imports, using a set-up template to map your data to software fields. (For AmpliFund, we help import current and future grant data on your behalf during our onboarding training sessions.)

          To make the data transfer process go smoothly, make sure your data is well organized. Employ multiple people within your organization to gather data. This prevents information bottlenecks, and helps you collect more data in less time.

          Have your team clearly define and map:

          • Accounting records: Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) rate, cash match percent and/or amount, in-kind match percent personnel and non-personnel, federal rate type, etc.
          • Departments: Names and unique identifiers for each internal department.
          • Budget: Categories to group budget line items and unique identifiers for budget line items.
          • Contact records: Record details for all organizations, individuals and staff involved in grants management.
          • Grants: Key record data, unique identifiers, responsible parties, etc. for each active grant.
          • Projects: Key record data, unique identifiers, responsible parties, etc. for each active project.

          Remember too that additional information can be input into your grants management platform at anytime. That said, the best path forward is usually to start with a small set of example data to fully understand how the new technology works, and then to add in additional data as needed.

            3. Establish Data Maintenance Processes

              In addition to uploading your data, take time to establish data maintenance processes for your team. Remember that data quality starts with people, not products.

              It’s up to your users to keep records and data up-to-date and accurate. A few key points to include in your policy:

              • Assign data input responsibilities to multiple people on your team to prevent fatigue and error. Make sure users knows what data points they are accountable for updating and keeping accurate.  
              • Put a system of checks and balances in place to ensure that data is checked for accuracy on an ongoing basis.
              • Require data to be updated in real-time, versus in large bulk uploads.

              For more information on how to adopt grants management software at your organization, download our grant management software implementation guide.

                   Implementation Guide

              Are you transitioning to grants management software? What stumbling blocks have you hit? Share them below.

              Image Source: justgrimes

              Government Funding Moving Toward Results-Based Distribution

              results based fundingBig changes are happening in the White House and on Capitol Hill, and the tremors can be felt in cities and towns across the United States. Federal spending reforms are impacting how taxpayer dollars are allocated, tracked and reported.  

              Nonprofit and public sector organizations that rely on federal funds must keep pace with such changes to remain compliant and competitive.

              Below, we look at how recent executive and legislative changes at the federal level are foreshadowing a shift toward results-based funding distribution and accountability.

              The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act

              The DATA Act, passed unanimously in the House and Senate, and signed into law May 2014, increases federal spending transparency for better detection of waste and fraud. It does so by standardizing federal grant data collection, aggregation and reporting.

              As a result, award recipients must have the infrastructure and processes to report spending data. Those that are unable to will be found non-compliant and are unlikely to be awarded funds once the standards are rolled out fully.

              Federal grantees must be proactive in standardizing internal spending data. Identify current data gaps, and adapt information management processes in compliance with new reporting requirements.

              OMB Uniform Grant Guidance

              Interim requirements for the OMB Uniform Grant Guidance went into effect for new awards as of Dec. 26, 2014, to be followed by a final ruling later this year. A key section of the guidance focuses on performance for accountability, which shifts how recipients are held responsible for grant performance.

              Under the guidance, grantees must demonstrate grant program performance and provide evidence of an internal performance management system that holds responsible parties accountable throughout the grant lifecycle.

              In order to apply for federal funds, recipients will also be required to undergo a risk evaluation prior to award. In it, they must prove they have corrected past audit issues, or risk being ineligible for funds.

              Treasury “Do Not Pay” Initiative

              A push from the Executive branch, the "Do Not Pay" initiative stemmed from an Executive Order issued by President Obama in 2009. In it, he called for a reduction of improper payments and greater focus on eliminating payment error, waste, fraud and abuse in federal programs.

              In 2010, the Do Not Pay Business Center was created to serve as a one-stop shop for federal agencies before making payments or awards. The center’s automated tools help grantors determine whether an individual or company is eligible to receive federal payments or engage in federal contracts.

              By entering a social security number (SSN), employee identification number (EIN), taxpayer identification number (TIN), first and last name, business name or DUN, agencies can search past data. This gives them access to compliance history, eligibility, past performance metrics and more.

              As a result, ineligible parties are flagged, and federal awards and contracts are awarded to the most deserving parties.

              Impact on Grantees

              These changes at the top levels of government are no coincidence; they are predictive of a comprehensive, cultural shift toward spending transparency and accountability.

              As results-based funding standards are rolled out, grantees should keep the following in mind:   

              • Transparency is the new norm. People want to know where money is spent and that it’s being spent well. Widespread demand for accountability will be at the heart of these and future reforms.  
              • Data standardization is key. Standardized and centralized reporting will clarify spending and root out waste, fraud and abuse.
              • Performance must be measurable. Once standardized, defined data is realized, it will create deeper questions around programmatic performance.

              For a deeper dive into what to expect from these federal initiatives, download our free fact sheet

              Download Your Free Copy of the Federal Grant Regulations Guide.

              How is your organization preparing for results-based funding? 

              Image Source: Alan O’Rourke via Flickr

              How Prepared is Your Organization for Programmatic Performance?

              14755163453 8bbaf50279 mAs a grant manager, you may be a little uneasy about the new Uniform Grant Guidance performance requirements your organization will be expected to follow.

              With a better understanding on how to properly implement programmatic performance strategies into your daily processes, you can set your mind at ease.

              This post highlights key takeaways from the StreamLink Software webinar with public sector consultant Sandy Swab, “Uniform Grant Guidance: How to Connect Performance and Financial Data.”

              Identify Performance Goals and Measures

              The first step is to document grant goals. During the proposal stage, performance measures, reporting requirements, and goals will be identified by the awarding agency.

              Align your proposal scope of work, budget narrative, and project design accordingly:

              • Identify the problem, and address specific priorities.
              • Assess your ability to meet priorities and criteria.
              • Identify expected outcomes and outputs, and relate them to the funding agency’s goals.
              • Create budgets per major activity. If there are significant sub-activities under a major activity, it may require a sub-activity budget.
              • Detail your project plan with a timeline. Include measurement activities, milestones, and any potential barriers.

              Think about performance during the proposal stage to help identify and manage:

              • Financial and other resource support for activities.
              • Performance measures to be captured.
              • Timelines for deliverables, reporting and completed work.

              Establish Processes to Manage Performance

              OMB UGG requires federal award recipients to:

              • Use approved government-wide standard data collection methods.
              • Relate financial data to performance accomplishments.
              • Submit reports at the frequency requested by the awarding agency.
              • Submit reports that encompass each program, activity or function.

              To ensure all criteria are being met properly, your organization may want to implement a management and oversight process to oversee performance. As such, it is recommended that recipients produce internal reports to keep track of progress every step of the way. Some helpful tips:

              • Identify required reporting timeframes, and which milestones or deliverables fall within the timeframe.
              • Recognize specific activities within the project and associated resources (funds, staff, and contracts).
              • Use a defined data structure to link financial expenditures to an activity. Be sure to link internal identifiers to required award data for federal reports.
              • For each grant or activity, produce an internal financial activity report and an internal progress report on a regular basis.

              Internal reports will help you monitor progress, catch issues before submission to the awarding agency, and demonstrate sound organizational business practices.

              Demonstrate Grant Performance

              You may still be asking yourself why the need for performance is so important; the answer is simple. Backing up performance efforts with data keeps your organization on track with goals, and helps improve program quality. It also enables awarding agencies to better evaluate overall funding results.

              When submitting performance reports, recipients may need to include the following information in the required format for federal awards:

              • Reporting period covered.
              • Major milestones, deliverables and activities covered within the report.
              • Narrative description of activities taken for each milestone, deliverable or goal.
              • Expenditures per activity.
              • Time and costs spent on activities compared to budget estimates.

              As noted previously, this information needs to be submitted via approved data collection formats. Electronic grant management systems can help with data collection, organization, and report creation and submission.

              Although change can be intimidating, it is often good. With strong grant management and careful oversight, your organization can transition smoothly to meet new UGG performance requirements.

              Want to learn more on how your organization can prepare for programmatic performance? Watch the webinar on demand, “Uniform Grant Guidance: How to Connect Performance and Financial Data.”

              Watch Webinar

              How is your organization preparing for programmatic performance? Let us know in the comments below.

              Image Source: Texas A&M University Commerce Marketing Communications Photography  

              Common Reasons Grant Management Software is Resisted—And How to Respond

              changeAfter deciding to purchase grant management software, the most important factor to implementation success is widespread adoption among affected staff. As with any change of process, some employees may resist at first.

              Below, we’ve mapped out common reasons for resistance and how to encourage employees to welcome and use the new tool.

              Reasons For Resistance

              Before you can manage change resistance, you must understand where it originates. First, try not to generalize; each employee may have his or her own reasons for resisting the new software and processes. Some common reasons include:

              • Lack of technology proficiency. Some employees may feel overwhelmed by the idea of a new technology and system to which they must adjust.
              • Doesn’t see fault in current processes. Ad hoc systems can become so commonplace for many employees that they see no fault in current processes.
              • Fear that the software will replace a need for his or her job. Misinformation may cause panic within departments, if employees fear the new technology will diminish their value.

              Managing Change Resistance

              Managing resistance boils down to mitigating the fear of change. First, understand your audience, and seek to define the reason for resistance. The following are recommended steps your organization can take to position yourself for integration success.

                1. First Blush Assessment. When introducing the software, take note of the grant management team’s reaction. Gauging the first blush will help you determine which team members are not immediately onboard.

                  2. Seek Feedback. Have an open discussion with the affected staff. Doing so will uncover the reasons for resistance and enable you to better tailor your onboarding and software integration approach.

                  3. Over Communicate. Explain the benefits grant management software will have on processes and efficiencies. Outline how the new technology will integrate into  daily jobs to reap benefits for both the organization and its employees.

                  4. Offer Training. One of the most actionable ways to alleviate resistance is to offer training. With a trial run and hands-on assistance, many will begin to feel more comfortable with the software and subsequent process changes.

                  Pro tip: Keep this in mind when choosing a vendor, as some offer built-in training sessions with the purchase of the software.

                  5. Include Affected Employees. Finally, it may be helpful to ask resistant employees what you can do to ease some of the worry or concern they have. Not only will this make employees feel included in the process, but it will also take some of the guesswork off your plate.

                    Leaders and change agents of the organization must make alleviating resistance a number-one priority when integrating a new software solution.

                    For more helpful information on the adoption and implementation of grant management software, download the Grant Management Implementation Guide.

                         Implementation Guide

                    How do you plan to ease change resistance within your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

                    Image Source: via Flickr

                    How Will Grant Management Evolve in 2015? Respond to Our Annual Survey!


                    Editor's Note: The 2015 State of Grant Management survey is now closed. Thank you for all who participated!

                    Grant management is constantly evolving, causing organizations to re-evaluate their processes for finding, managing and tracking grant money. 

                    And new legislation, such as The DATA Act, brings greater responsibility for transparency and accountability.

                    We invite you to participate in our annual grant management survey to answer the question: “What is the current state of grant management, and how do new requirements affect your organization?”

                    With your help, we will gather valuable information on:

                    • Common grant management frustrations and challenges.
                    • Confidence levels in relation to federal changes.
                    • Current grant management processes and tools.
                    • Popular funding and revenue sources.
                    • The growing grant collaboration trend.

                    As a thank you to participants, all respondents will be entered for the chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card!

                    Note: The survey is now closed. Consolidated findings will be released in our 2015 State of Grant Management research report. This valuable industry resource provides a benchmark for nonprofits and government agencies to compare their readiness against others, and plot out the improvements necessary for continued success. For a look at last year’s survey findings, download the 2014 State of Grant Management Report

                    What are your thoughts on the state of grant management?

                    Image Source: SamahR

                    The Value of Institutional Memory in the Boardroom

                    computersEvery organization has crucial information that is needed to keep it up and running—but how can you protect that valuable knowledge?

                    Centralized institutional memory helps improve board member and employee onboarding, and overall organization quality and productivity.

                    Read on for the essential reasons your board needs to systematize its institutional memory.

                    1. Improve Board Member Onboarding

                      People come and go—but valuable information doesn’t have to leave with them. With easy access to your organization’s institutional memory, board members can better translate historical data and experiences into useful knowledge and action.

                      Systemized institutional memory also helps maintain board traditions and culture, such as group values, chemistry among members and staff, tone of meetings and more. Documenting these typically “unwritten” rules keeps the overall feel of the organization in tact as new members are added.

                      Proactively plan for knowledge transfer in advance of board members or employees leaving to keep your organization successful. Document processes, routines, useful knowledge and other essential dynamics for easy new member onboarding.

                       2. Centralized Board Materials

                      One of the most convenient benefits of an institutional memory system is that critical information can be accessed in one place. Board members will no longer waste time searching for files or organizational details.

                      Use an online board portal to share files and data easily throughout your organization, and keep board members up-to-date on projects and meetings. Centralize and keep track of important information such as:

                      • Board member bios, expertise and connections.
                      • Committee members and updates.
                      • Meeting agendas, minutes and motions.
                      • Organization mission, facts and FAQs.

                      3. Increase Productivity

                        Centralized information also allows board members to evaluate important terms, procedures, historical information and more to improve their productivity levels.

                        Understand what has and has not worked in the past to make smarter decisions for the future. If a previous board discussed a topic, you’ll have reference of what was said and why decisions were made a particular way. The sitting board can use that knowledge to better inform actions. If an alternate approach is recommended, it can be done with full knowledge of the organization’s history and past debates.

                        In addition, don’t spend unnecessary time trying to figure out a task that someone may already know how to do! When institutional memory is easily accessible, boards have the resources to dig deeper into a process or situation, and better collaborate as a team.

                        For a look at board management trends, read our 2014 Board Engagement Report.

                           2014 Board Report  

                        How would your board members benefit from shared institutional memory? Let us know in the comments below.

                         Image Source: Sarah Marriage


                        Ready Your Organization for Programmatic Performance [Free Webinar]

                        performance reportingOn Dec. 26, 2014, newly released Uniform Grant Guidance shifted the way grantees will be held accountable for performance and results.

                        Grantees must now be able to demonstrate both: 

                        • Grant performance metrics.
                        • Effective performance management systems.

                        This will require proper identification of performance measures, structured data collection processes and the ability to create data-driven reports. 

                        Though increased accountability will be beneficial in improving the way funds are managed and allocated, the transition to performance can be intimidating at first. Our webinar will provide you and all the essentials needed to prepare for the switch.

                        About the Webinar

                        StreamLink Software and Sandy Swab, an independent public sector consultant at SRSwab Consulting and former senior policy analyst for the OMB, have partnered up for a second webinar. “Uniform Grant Guidance: How to Connect Performance and Financial Data."

                        The one-hour free webinar will cover:

                        • Why the UGG is increasing its focus on grant performance.
                        • The goals and objectives of federal programs.
                        • UGG organizational and award performance requirements.
                        • How to identify and address performance measures within reporting processes.
                        • Tips for collecting the right data and creating data-driven reports. 

                        Watch the webinar on-demand.

                        Register for Webinar

                        Image Source: AJC

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