A Nonprofit’s Need for Stability

Nonprofit operations need to continue in a consistent manner each time and every day. Without this stability, mistakes occur and, when a problem happens, the people struggle for a solution.

Most of the time, nonprofits (and other organizations) rely on people staying in their same position over time to maintain stability. Unfortunately, when these people leave, the operations must be relearned. This costs time and other resources and could be a significant point of failure in the mission or a program.

A simple list of what to do is sufficient to keep operations stable when people leave. As an example, when receiving grant money, the instruction should state what spreadsheet to use, what information to enter, who to inform about the grant, and who will be accountable for spending the money (receive, record, inform, and establish accountability). The instructions do not have to be long.

While it can seem daunting to write instructions for each activity and process, they can be written without many details. Do not write about every possible contingency that may come up. Keep the instructions simple so they can be used as a baseline for what to do. Keep the instruction to one page or two at the most. Make sure there is plenty of white space on each page, maybe use an outline form. The reader does not want to feel like they are reading War and Peace.

I am trying to follow my own advice with the nonprofit I’m involved with. While I already keep records of everything, I am writing out the steps I take to accomplish each process. Now is a good time for everyone to do this since most of us are home. I’m also doing it because I do not plan to stay with the nonprofit the rest of my life.

Does There Need to be a Hero and a Villain?

Many authors and people in the publishing industry claim that a story is not a story without a hero and a villain. I disagree.

The thinking behind this claim is that opposing sides create conflict which keeps the reader’s interest. Suspense builds toward the resolution of the conflict. Historically, opposing sides have been between good and evil or a hero and a villain. However, I don’t think a hero or a villain is always necessary to make a story. Nor, is good and evil needed.

To make a story, something needs to happen. At least one character should exhibit some type of change that does not come from facing an enemy. A scene, environment, or events can create challenges that make a character become a better or worse person. Yet, writing this way can be difficult for writers.

Many writers find it easier and simpler to create a hero and a villain where the boundaries are well defined and the conflict is clear. Such as in the Hero’s Journey. Except, this can lead to flat characters who have no complexity, deep emotion, or distinct personality.

Flat characters are clichés who stay within the boundaries of what the writer defines as good or evil. The story becomes more about chasing after something like an object or a goal than about who is doing the chasing. To avoid flat characters and give more dimension to the story, a writer could question the good and evil of the characters.

As an example, chase scenes and quests could change the hero into a villain and vice versa. Or, there could be no obvious hero or villain. Just average people confronted with challenges that makes them into something different than what they were at the story’s beginning.

What it means to be a nonprofit

I have become involved in a small nonprofit that existed for many years. While the previous board members were familiar with the mission, they were unfamiliar with operating a nonprofit. They assumed that being small meant they were okay with not following all the nonprofit rules.

If the IRS approves a letter of determination and the nonprofit receives money, they must follow basic nonprofit rules. Size matters only in what rules to follow.

For example, this nonprofit had not filed an income tax form for several years. Previous members decided that the nonprofit’s small income exempted them from filing. This caused the nonprofit status to be revoked and it was reinstated at a cost.

Every board member should learn how to run a nonprofit. Of all the things to learn, the two most important ones are:

  • Protect the money by creating financial guidelines. Include at least two unrelated people on the bank account and require dual signatures on all expenses. Also, establish a process to balance the bank account and report to the members.
  • Keep the bylaws updated. These are the operating rules of the nonprofit and should be reviewed at least every two years. The most important part of the bylaws is what makes a quorum. Too low a number and changes could be made without members having a say. Too high a number and nothing can get change, even when needed.

Other matters to pay attention to are having a budget, maintaining archives, and keeping a set of operating procedures updated.

Everyone in a nonprofit has responsibility to make sure that, not only is the mission met, but that the nonprofit operates according to the rules. No matter the size of the nonprofit.

What is More Important: Character or Plot?

A few months ago on the website for Alliance of Independent Authors, I read Rachel McCollin’s article Plot vs Character: Which Comes First?

She stated that a story needs both plot and character to succeed. I agree that stories need these equally. I’ve read many authors who focused on plot or character, but not both. To me, their stories seemed to lack a connection. They were easy to read and easy to forget.

A plot where the characters have no influence in the story becomes a series of chase and fight scenes until no one is left to fight or chase. Likewise, characters without a plot wander around facing continuous attacks on their emotions without resolution.

There are plenty of readers who want to read about action or feelings, but not both. However, the most memorable stories I’ve read had a story where plot and character worked closely together.

Ms. McCollin explained that many writers do not start off with a plot or characters. They start with a theme. Next comes the characters to stretch out the theme that develops into a plot. This is one path a writer can take.

Sometimes a writer may start off with characters with the plot arriving to give them purpose. If a plot develops first, the action brings the characters to life. In either case, a writer usually arrives at a point, a triple fork in the road, where they can focus on plot, character, or both.

It is here that a writer should decide who their readers will be. A story that focuses on plot or character can find readers. However, when plot and character are treated equally in a story the result can become a strong, memorable one that will find even more readers.