Not-for-Profit Toolkit

The CICF Not-for-Profit Toolkit was designed to offer support to community not-for-profits. It is a concise, curated collection of practical tools and information about many aspects of leading and operating a small- to mid-sized not-for-profit in Central Indiana. These resources can help your not-for-profit elevate the voices and needs of the people you serve while you strengthen your operations and financial stability.

  • Have you wondered where to start if you have a question about fundraising? What if your not-for-profit wants to support a particular bill in the state legislature – can a not-for-profit do that? You can quickly find those answers here.
  • Could you use a simple tool to help you prioritize your not-for-profit’s programs? Find an easy to use matrix mapping tool here in the organizational growth section.
  • Is it time for your board’s annual review of your performance? Locate a simple evaluation form as a starting point for your board.

While you could google this information, you would find dozens—or even hundreds—of resources under each topic, with varying levels of credibility. These 75 resources are curated by field experts, and include articles to provide context, planning and management tools. Some, particularly legal and human resources, are Indiana focused. Updates will occur periodically to ensure relevancy.


  • From sustainability to survivability tool icon
    Steve Zimmerman wrote the book on the Sustainability Matrix tool that not-for-profits across the country have used to prioritize programs and help board, staff, and other stakeholders better understand organizational finances. His article, How Not-for-profits Can Manage Uncertainty Amid Crisis, overviews key financial steps plus provides a cashflow worksheet and the matrix-map tool.
  • Engine of Impact Diagnostic tool icon
    Tool offers a detailed roadmap "for turning a good not-for-profit into a great one.” – Good to Great author Jim Collins. Consists of a 10- to 15-minute survey that produces an assessment of your organization’s performance in the seven essential areas of strategic leadership.
  • Exploring strategic partnerships (BoardSource) power of possibility
    Partnerships can be a way to increase impact, realize operating efficiencies, or bring together leadership talent. This short discussion outline helps begin a frequently uncomfortable conversation with your board.
  • Is earned/business income the solution to our funding needs?
    There is a trend of not-for-profits exploring business ventures as an alternative source of revenue to traditional sources. This article provides a short checklist to help determine whether your business idea will advance your mission or distract you from it.
  • Mergers that work
    Though the idea of merging with another not-for-profit is often viewed as a last resort, research is showing positive outcomes on impact and sustainability.
  • The Disruption Canvas tool icon
    With much discussion about scenario planning and responding to our new environment, this free tool can be used to think through how your people, organization, and community are being impacted and explore options to respond.

  • How board members can do the most good in the pandemic COVID-19 icon
    Many board members are at a loss about how they should be responding in these difficult times. Where is the line between micro-managing and leading?
  • Responsibilities of a not-for-profit board member
    Serving as a board member of a not-for-profit should be enjoyable, but also a serious responsibility. This short article overviews 10 aspects of the board member’s role to pay attention to, and that it is more than attending an occasional board meeting.
  • Candid conversations about board governance
    Discussing areas for improvement related to board governance can be difficult, but are critical to organizational success. This “tip sheet” offers guidance and additional resources on governance areas most likely to be a challenge for boards of small-to-mid-size not-for-profit organizations.
  • Evaluating the executive director/CEO tool icon
    One of the most important responsibilities of the board is to evaluate the work of the executive director or CEO and regularly discuss progress toward organizational goals. This article provides an evaluation form (Word format) to use as a starting point.
  • Succession planning for the not-for-profit board chair
    The board chair is a pivotal role for both the board and the organization. The board chair sets the tone for leadership and accountability and can move the organization forward or leave it to muddle through. This 8-page white-paper guide provides great insights for a new or long-term board chair.
  • Emergency Executive Director/CEO succession tool icon
    It can be an uncomfortable conversation to start but every organization should have an emergency succession plan for the ED/CEO and other key staff. This toolkit provides a detailed overview and sample forms.
  • Developing a simple “dashboard”tool icon
    Not-for-profit board and staff leaders love the idea of a dashboard to visually illustrate what is going well and where the organization is falling short; but it can seem like an overwhelming task. Here is a simple way to start with a green, yellow, red light tool.
  • What Governance Policies Should You Have? Conflict of Interest, Gift Acceptance, Whistleblower, Document Retention, etc.
    This brief article gives you a quick overview and points you to resources for examples and templates you can adapt to your organization.
  • Taking action on board diversity
    A board that is homogenous in any way risks having blind spots that negatively impact its ability to make the best decisions and plans for the organization. This two-pager outlines 5 key questions to help articulate the importance of diversity and put it into practice.
  • 10 steps to a more diverse board
    Understanding the importance of a diverse board is a start, understanding how to get there may seem daunting. This article outlines 10 unique steps that your board can take to move the needle.
  • Accelerating not-for-profit diversity
    According to BoardSource, not-for-profit board member makeup has nearly achieved complete gender equality, but there is a huge imbalance with regard to race and age. This article highlights the factors your organization should discuss and implement to develop a more diverse and inclusive board.
  • Beyond political correctness: Building a diverse and inclusive board
    Exceptional not-for-profit boards recognize that diversity is essential to an organization’s success. They see the correlation between mission, strategy and board composition and understand that establishing an inclusive organization starts with establishing a diverse and inclusive board.
Recruiting and Orientation
  • Board member recruiting event
    Locally, you can register and participate in Leadership Indianapolis' annual Get on Board event where hundreds of potential board members visit with 100 not-for-profits.
  • On-board with vigor
    It is common for board members to say that it took them a full year to understand their role. An intentional orientation and engagement process help new board members contribute from the start.
  • 15-page “sample handbook”tool icon
    Provides board member recruiting and application forms plus an outline for a basic board member orientation (2019).

  • Ten Equity Implications of the Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak in the United States COVID-19 icon
    The NAACP offers a detailed resource outlining specific advocacy actions to take, in both the short- and long-term, to meet the immediate needs of those most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic.
  • An opportunity to operationalize equity: A Racial Equity Toolkit
    Provides strategies and actions that reduce racial inequities and improve success for all groups. Racial equity tools are designed to integrate explicit consideration of racial equity in decisions, including policies, practices, programs and budgets. (updated 2016)
  • Racial equity tools COVID-19 icon
    Provides a plethora information and tools that are designed to help organizations, communities, and activists as they work to understand and respond to the current situation (and for the long haul) as it relates to racial equity.
  • Charity Review Council DEI Toolkit ($500)
    In order to meet DEI standards, organizations needed a self-administered tool that was affordable and focused on organizational development versus individual training. Self-administered assessment tool.

Donor Engagement
  • Choosing a donor management system tool icon
    Idealware is a not-for-profit that evaluates software solutions for not-for-profits. With dozens, maybe hundreds, of donor management packages to choose from, they offer reviews and insights.
  • 18 Free Marketing Tools for Not-for-Profits 
    This is an inclusive list of resources and shortcuts that allow you to advance your marketing and communications efforts with a limited budget
Foundation & grant research
  • Foundation Center Library tool icon
    The Indianapolis Public Library Central Branch provides free online access to directories to search for foundations to fund organizations. Use the “Ask a librarian” electronic feature, if you need help (chat, text or email).
  • Grant research list
    Here is a broad overview of websites and services you can access to learn more about foundation and government grants that could be applicable to your organization.
  • Getting started on grant research
    A helpful rundown of free tools to help with prospecting research along with tips and tricks to help get you started down the right path and make your research more fruitful.
  • How to write a winning grant proposal
    Here’s a quick one-page introduction to take some of the mystery out of grant writing for funders who don’t provide clear instructions or proposals.
  • GrantAdvisor tool icon
    A crowdsourced anonymous review site for a not-for-profit to rate its foundation experience to provide and view feedback working with its foundations and grantmakers. Brief overview of the platform.
  • Expert grant proposal review by Unfunded ($100) tool icon
    Twice each year, this group of funding experts accept and review grant proposals in order to provide feedback.

Health & Safety
working remote & Mental health

Accounting/Audit Practices
  • Serving as treasurer when there isn’t staff
    In very small not-for-profits, the bookkeeping and check writing roles can fall to a volunteer treasurer. This article provides a great job description and outline for a current treasurer or that a gracious financially-minded person who has agreed to become your next treasurer (2010).
  • When/why does a not-for-profit need a financial audit
    Most very small not-for-profits do not need an annual independent audit from a CPA firm: there are alternatives to increase the board’s and funder’s confidence in your finances. This article outlines some typical revenue and funder thresholds plus three additional resources.

Risk Management
  • No business continuity plan? Here are 4 steps COVID-19 icon
    Special edition of the RISK eNews offers a highly simplified, quick-start framework to activate when your not-for-profit is currently facing an interruption to operations.
  • Basic business continuity template COVID-19 icon
    Mercy Corps, an international disaster agency around since the early 1980s, has helped people recover from tough humanitarian emergencies. Offers a series of questions to frame any emergency.
  • Potential Insurance Claims COVID-19 icon
    Since the pandemic shutdown is uncharted territory, your business insurance policy might make you eligible to file a claim with your insurance carrier.
  • State of Indiana resource page for not-for-profits
    Forming or operating a not-for-profit in Indiana. This site includes best practices checklist, fundraising registration, how to apply for an Indiana Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and federal Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • BoardSource legal and compliance issues FAQs
    Compilation of governance-related questions posed by not-for-profit leaders over the past 30 years. Quick source for legal and compliance questions.
Advocacy vs Lobbying
Closing & Dissolution

  • The Fund Raising School at IUPUI
    A world-renowned resource that’s right down the street. They provide a wide range of training programs and certificates, on campus and on-line.Check out a selection of free resources available through the school:

  • The Association of Fundraising Professionals
    The Central Indiana chapter of this international organization meets monthly and provides a great forum to learn and network with other fundraisers.
  • Charitable Gift Planners of Indiana
    For development professionals in designing and implementing charitable gift planning; providing continued education, mentoring and networking opportunities.
  • Not-for-Profit News
    Free, local, weekly e-newsletter with 14,000 subscribers that shares information about local not-for-profits, training events, people on the move, and job postings.