Sunday, November 15, 2015

Meet Jill M. Morris, Author of The Nonprofit Toolkit

Jill M. Morris has worked in the public relations field for nearly 20 years, with a particular emphasis on assisting those in the nonprofit world. As she puts it, she works "with a mission to help those who are on a mission." She founded Jill Morris Public Relations, LLC (JMPR) in 2007. Jill was also Special Assistant to the late Honorable Eunice Kennedy Shriver at the Kennedy Foundation.

Jill's latest project is The Nonprofit Toolkit. This is a step by step guide to starting a nonprofit and contains a set of 14 documents to help you start your nonprofit business, including everything from a business plan template to a five-year budget projections template.

1. What inspired to you put together The Nonprofit Toolkit?

I have dual expertise in public relations and nonprofit management with years of experience and education in both. My company, Jill Morris Public Relations, primarily serves nonprofits. Servicing nonprofits' external needs, I'm finding that many are in shambles internally. I stand firm on the saying that whatever happens internally will be revealed externally. With that understanding, in order to keep up with the demand for public relations services, I thought it would be beneficial to create tools that staff could execute as I am managing their publics. Also, because I often speak at conferences, I get several calls a week from individuals seeking mentoring on starting nonprofits. I want to help everybody. In a nutshell, the inspiration to put together the toolkit was to ensure nonprofits, specifically my clients, are building sustainable organizations.

2. Could you give us some examples of some of the documents included in the kit and how they can help nonprofits?

Sure. So, one of the main documents that is included in the toolkit is the Bylaws template. You can find Bylaws samples all over the internet; however, the template I created includes two clauses that protect the founder, which is a high concern. Many founders fear boards taking full control over "their" organization and having the power and authority to terminate them at will. I have included a non-removal clause that simply states that the founder can only be removed from his/her administrative position at his/her will. The other clause protects the founder's intellectual property. Many individuals are building nonprofits of off their personal experiences, such as if a former battered woman starts a women's shelter. Well, with the influx of social media, many are packaging and selling their personal stories of victory. Therefore, the clause I included in the Bylaws template ensures the founder owns all rights to his/her intellectual property, even if it is affiliated with the nonprofit, as well as any proceeds.

Another document I included, which I believe is crucial and often overlooked by founders, is a full Business Plan template. I give sample "nonprofit" content throughout the Business Plan template, so that the founder can fully understand how to write out their vision. I even include a Budget Projections template with sample line items that most nonprofits need.

However, the most sought-after document in the toolkit is actually the Board Members Package, which includes the following templates for new board members: Invitation to Serve on Board Letter, Board Member Application, Founder's Guiding Principles, Commitment Statement, Confidentiality Agreement, and Board Officers/Members Duties.

The toolkit also includes a Step-by-Step Guide where I start with how to write the vision and end with how to build a "nonprofit" website and do outreach. I provide everything a newbie needs to build a sustainable nonprofit.

I've also included an annual Strategic Planning template, as well as IRS Form 1023 (application for 501(c)(3) tax exempt-status).

3. In your work as a public relations professional, what are some of the ways that you've helped nonprofits get their messages out into the world?

Well, the most consistent and "credible" way I've helped nonprofits get their messages out into the world is through traditional media. Whether hosting awareness events or highlighting client successes from their use of programs and services, I make it my business to inform the local media. I love creating public service announcements (PSAs) for radio. I still think they are effective. Also, with radio, nonprofits have the right to "free" airtime if they are promoting activities that benefit the community---which nonprofits do.

Now, with social media on the rise, unlike before, clients can be their own news source. I am an avid proponent of informative websites. I advise my clients to make their websites "Grand Central Station" and to include blogs, data, statistics, announcements, photos, etc. I help clients own their subject. Also, I encourage them to be active social media accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I advise to use website content and distribute via their social media circles.

4. I think people often think that PR is costly, but what are some free or relatively inexpensive ways to create buzz?

Again, take advantage of local news sources. Radio, newspapers, local news stations, and events calendars still work wonders. The FCC has mandated "free" air-time and space for community news. Use it. Local news love "rags to riches" types of stories. If your nonprofit is changing lives, then ask a few of your successful clients if he/she would do an interview (get them to sign a media release, first!). Also, be sure to introduce yourself to editors/producers who cover the stories that are related to your nonprofit. Let them know that your organization is a source of information in whatever area you're serving. It's free.

Social media works wonders, too. However, I would suggest using video footage with social media. Although not free, I advise every nonprofit to do a promotional type video, annually, that highlights the organization's mission, overview of programs/services, snippets from executive staff and board members, and a few client features. A video works wonders. And, grantors LOVE seeing their dollars are being used as proposed.

5. If you could give just three pieces of advice to people who want to start a nonprofit but are hesitating because it seems too daunting, what would you suggest?

The best advice I can give to people who want to start a nonprofit is:

1. Write the vision and make it plain. If you feel a calling to serve purpose via the nonprofit sector, then you have to operate above feelings. You have work to do and your life will be miserable until you do it.

2. Draft a business plan. A nonprofit is driven by a mission, which is based on the founder's overall vision. A business plan is simply detailing the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the mission on paper.

3. Forget about "losing control," and recruit solid, knowledgeable, and professional Board members who are willing to work and help you serve purpose. Most nonprofits fail because they lack oversight and governance. When you are working on purpose, it's not a one-wo/man show. Get the help. Trust me, it is needed to change communities.

Thanks, Jill!

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