News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
After attending the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s Nonprofit Day 2011, I found out that, yes nonprofits can lobby. According to the IRS, 501(c)(3) corporations are allowed to lobby as long as they follow their rules and fill out the proper forms. The IRS defines lobbying as attempting to influence legislation by contacting, or encouraging the public to contact, members of a legislative body for purposes of supporting/opposing/proposing legislation. The major rule is that nonprofits cannot spend a “substantial amount” of their budget on lobbying. For a clearer explanation of what the IRS considers to be a “substantial amount,” check out Measuring Lobbying Activity: Expenditure Test. Charity Lawyers Blog post titled, Lobbying-Yes You Can! clarifies in layman’s, terms what is and is not lobbying, as well as explaining the 501(h) election.
According to the IRS, qualifying organizations may file a special election under 501(h) of the Code, or Election/Revocation of Election by an Eligible Section 501(c)(3) Organization To Make Expenditures To Influence Legislation (501(H) Election), to allow them to spend up to a specified dollar amount for lobbying without fear of adverse tax consequence from such activities. The IRS and Michigan Nonprofit Association advise nonprofits to file the 501(h) election if they are planning on doing any lobbying, as well as tracking all expenditures. ‘Direct’ and ‘Grassroots’ lobbying must be tracked separately as they have separate expenditure limits.
IRS Resources on Lobbying and expenditure limits:
IRS Definition of Direct & Grassroots Lobbying
IRS Schedule C Political Campaign and Lobbying Activities
IRS General Instructions for Filing Schedule C for Lobbying Activity
Excessive lobbying activities over a four-year period may cause a nonprofit to lose its tax-exempt status, making all of its income for that period subject to tax.
For questions on how to use communication channels such as your website, email, and social media channels for lobbying, Alliance for Justice is offering a free downloadable copy of Influencing Public Policy In The Digital Age: The Law of Online Lobbying and Election-related Activities. The guide is intended to inform 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) organizations on how to stay within the law and encourage participation in the nation’s democratic process using technology.
Consult your attorney and the IRS Charities/Nonprofits webpage for more information on how nonprofits can lobby for their cause. Other helpful resources are the IRS eNews: Exempt Organization Update and Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest website. ONEplace will be hosting a webinar November 15 titled Lobbying Rules for Nonprofits presented by Alliance for Justice. Register online soon as we anticipate seats will go fast!
Please share your thoughts about nonprofit lobbying by commenting on my blog!
Lobbying-Yes You Can!
Nonprofits often seek grants from foundations for new projects or ongoing financial support. During an informative webinar, presented today by John Hicks, CFRE, for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), he discussed ways to build positive relationships with foundations.
His ‘elements of a good relationship’ include: trust, communication, shared values, honesty, and respect…as he noted, the elements of any good relationship. Learning about a foundation’s mission, values, culture, philanthropic philosophies, and practices, is critical to assessing a good match and possible funding opportunity. If mission and values clearly aren’t in alignment, he urges grant seekers to not waste their own or the foundation’s time in pursuing a relationship.
His ‘six rules of engagement’ build on those elements. Nonprofits need to know:
- The landscape--the type of foundation: mega, competitive or community, family
- The people you are dealing with--program officer/staff, board members, or family foundation donor; learn through direct conversations and through your networks
- Their considerations—what they are dealing with that has nothing to do with you, or ‘their environment’
- What they value—outcomes that relate to their vision, working with people who have authority and responsibility for funding and outcomes, and people who follow their protocol
- How to give them what they want, how they want it—by learning their culture, personalities, and information processing practices, without shortcuts. Never to under estimate the importance of the gatekeeper—the person who opens and is the first to review your correspondence, requests, and reports for process (rules) and information
- Minimize risk—their risk through failed projects or misuse of funds; grantee risk through unrealistic expectations or mission drift
Stating that, like other types of fundraising, people give to people the trust, he encourages nonprofits to keep foundations informed about their work and outcomes before and while seeking funding from them. The relationship is a professional one, not a personal one, that needs to be treated much like working with an attorney to prepare a case: the grant-seeker preparing a case to the foundation and the foundation professional preparing a case to his/her board, grants panel, or the donor, directly.
These and many other grant-seeker/grant-maker resources are available at ONEplace and through the AFP website. If you have tips for developing positive relationships with foundations, please comment on this blog.
Association of Fundraising Professionals
Do you know if there is? Do you know how much it affects your organization’s ability to do your mission-driven work now or in the future?
During our First Wednesday Risk Management Series webinar, presenter Carlye Christianson of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center pointed out several critical outcomes from having ‘unhappy stakeholders’ (staff, volunteer, board members) in your midst. Common to all stakeholder groups: discontent diminishes commitment to mission; and, costs of replacing people are high. She recommends studying retention in departments and stakeholder groups at least annually so problems can be addressed quickly. Below are some key points she made about why people leave organizations and how to proactively address discontent-causing practices:
- Only 12% leave an organization for reasons related to compensation
- 88% leave for other reasons, including: organizational culture; management style or a specific supervisor; lack of opportunities for advancement or professional development; or, the organization’s lack of commitment to quality or mission
- One in three employees is thinking of leaving at any one time; for discontented staff that rises to 50%
- Discontented workers often increase: tardiness, mistakes, detachment, poor attitude
- To proactively address potential discontent: listen to employees; conduct a ‘stay interview’ (what will keep you here/what will send you away); offer opportunities for new assignments, training, and leadership development; provide options for work/life balance, encourage ‘a voice’ in how the organization runs and how the mission is served
- Leave organizations for the same reasons staff do plus lack of: orientation, interpersonal relationships, good skill/assignment match, commitment to mission
- To get and keep volunteers: develop a volunteer management program with a policy and procedure manual; review and update recruiting practices (only recruit people and skills you really need); develop job descriptions; provide orientation, ongoing training, and recognition; assure meaningful integration into the organization; and, conduct stay/exit interviews
- Leave organizations because of: low productivity in the board room (low expectations; poor attendance, preparation, or engagement; lack of meeting management); crisis mentality; factions and impasses; poor ED-CEO / board relationships;
- To get and keep board members: recruit and orient purposefully and appropriately; create an intentional culture of candor, inclusiveness, foresight, and reflection; evaluate and change board structure, operations, and ‘work’ (clearly define board / ED roles; move from hands-on to policy focus, etc); engage in strategic discussions and issues; and, conduct stay/exit interviews
Continually assessing all areas (ED, board, staff, volunteers), individually and collectively, and implementing a culture of continuous engagement and improvement will go a long way to stemming and/or reversing discontent in all stakeholder groups. The costs for your organization and, especially the constituents you serve, are too high to do otherwise.
For more information on this and many other risk management topics, visit the Nonprofit Center for Risk Management. ONEplace presents their First Wednesday Webinar Series and Third Thursday HR Webinar Series. Check our website calendar for more information and registration.
Nonprofit Center for Risk Management (symbol: Chinese for angry, annoyed, unhappy)
Gail Perry ‘wrote the book’ about transforming your nonprofit board members into a ‘fired-up’ fundraisers by putting their passions into actions. She will be in Kalamazoo on April 28 to share her wisdom and 7-step process for creating excitement about your organization’s potential and enthusiasm to generate the resources to make it happen. She’ll explore ways to change board members’ perception of fundraising from “asking for money” to “changing the world.”
Her presentation will be held at the Fetzer Center, Western Michigan University, from 8:30 to noon, followed by a networking luncheon (optional), and is co-sponsored by ONEplace@kpl and the Association of Fundraising Professional’s West Michigan Chapter. Registration information is available at ONEplace or AFPWM. Put it on your calendar, invite board members and fundraising staff, and register today!
If you aren’t yet familiar with Gail, she is always on the lookout for stimulating and, often, counter-intuitive fundraising ideas. Following is a summary of ‘pearls’ she gathered at the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ International Conference in mid-March—and a taste of what you can expect at her April 28 presentation. For the complete idea, follow the link to the originator.
1. Go All Out for Monthly Donors On Your Home Page
Monthly donors are worth gold to you. On average, they will stay for 10 YEARS. Put the ask right on your home page. The ideal monthly appeal ties a monthly ask to something specific. “$31 a month will do xxxx.” (Harvey McKinnon)
2. Focus on Fewer – Not More Donors
You don’t make more money by having more donors. The more donors you accumulate – the less profitable your fundraising program. (Penelope Burk)
3. Encourage Restricted Giving
Restricted asks raise more money. Period. We are holding our philanthropy back, because we are asking for unrestricted rather than restricted. (Penelope Burk)
4. Get Rid of the Words
Put your whole message in the first 150 words. The rest of your copy just backs it up. (Tom Ahern)
5. Get Rid of “Unmet Needs,” “Programs,” “Services”
Write like you are an outsider to your organization. Get rid of the boring, obtuse jargon. Jargon is a flame retardant! (Tom Ahern)
6. Make Your Case Like a Series of Ads
Add photos while you get rid of words. Create your case or your fundraising materials with the fewest words and the best photos. (Tom Ahern)
7. Hire More Fundraisers
Saying, “We can’t hire any more staff” is stupid. Each additional fundraising staffer upticks gross fundraising revenue. Period. (Penelope Burk)
8. Give Your Fundraising Staff Raises
Money is the #1 reason fundraising staff leaves. Investing in retention of staff will make you money. Retention boosts profit. Extend young staff from 18 months to 30 months saves you money. (Burk)
9. Get Rid of the Raise Money Now Mindset
31% of fundraisers who are planning to leave their jobs will leave because of an unrealistic “old school” culture of fundraising: ie, “you HAVE to bring in the $ NOW.” How much more money could you raise if you took a long term, strategic approach? (Burk)
10. You Must Give Your Staff Management Training
Success in business is 95% in the management of other people. But we cut staff training first whenever there is a shortfall. Training is essential. There’s not enough management training in nonprofits.(Burk)
11. Get Rid of Lousy Board Members Now
Allowing a lousy, nonperforming board member to serve out their term is, two words: “Chicken S***” (Simone Joyaux)
12. Be Blatant
Try this: “With your help, all these amazing things happened. And without your help, they won’t.” You‘re selling the impact of the donor’s gift. (Tom Ahern)
13. Stop Talking About The Money You Need
You choose: A case is about the opportunity you‘re putting in front of the donor. OR A case is about your organization‘s need for cash. (Ahern)
14. Become a Shrink
When dealing with volunteers, you are a psychologist not a fundraiser! (Laura Fredricks)
15. Don’t Believe Your Prospect, When...
If he says, “I’m just a plain ole country boy,” it really means he is a wealthy prospect! (Eli Jordfald)
16. Close Down Some Programs
Leaders will close or giveaway a program or activity that is no longer profitable and has little impact.
So were these ideas provocative? Would they challenge your status quo? Remember fundraising is changing. Donors are changing. Doing what you’ve always done the same old way will get you yesterday’s results. Go for it! Change is good. Use this article to rattle some cages! –Gail Perry
December 15 was a special day for the nonprofit sector in Kalamazoo County! Over 100 nonprofit executives, foundation representatives, board members, and community leaders gathered to honor and celebrate accomplishments of 2010 before a New Year starts in a couple weeks.
The first-ever celebration was sponsored and hosted by ONEplace at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Consultants & Trainers Network (also sponsored by ONEplace) members helped host the fun and engaging event. The room sustained a gentle roar of excitement for over two hours as people re-connected with colleagues from across the community and met new ones. People commented on the diversity of nonprofits and supporters in the room.
A video looped throughout the morning, showing the depth and breadth of the nonprofit sector through photos and statistics from a wide array of local organizations: health & human services agencies; educational institutions; governmental units; arts, culture, & humanities organizations; environmental organizations; youth development organizations; faith-based organizations; business associations; nonprofit-support organizations; foundations; and, more.
As director of ONEplace, I commented briefly on the level of services provided despite the current economy which are enormous and ever-generous. Basic needs providers are challenged to meet demands while often reducing their own budgets. Educators at all levels continue supporting new, innovative ways to improve student outcomes and employee performance while ‘tightening their belts.’ Arts, cultural, humanitarian, and civic organizations continue supporting Kalamazoo County’s quality of life with fewer dollars. Working together with our business and governmental sectors, the nonprofit sector assures the very fabric of our community continues to thrive.
It’s important to step back, pause, and reflect on how special Kalamazoo County is and “celebrate what we want to see more of.” The Nonprofit Sector Celebration did just that.
I was very fortunate to attend the National Independent Sector/Council of Michigan Foundations Annual Conference in Detroit earlier this month. It was inspiring to be among the 1,100 people from over 30 states who came together to share insights, build collaborative skills through interactive sessions, and delve into issues facing the nonprofit sector today.
Many of the themes of the three-day conference aligned with a plenary presentation made by Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector:
- It’s past time to really work together across the ‘silos’ of business, government, and nonprofit; and
- As individuals, organizations, and collaborations, we must think and act for the ‘big picture’ because, to survive and thrive, we must acknowledge our interdependence.
Below is a summary of her comments as published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
--Bobbe A. Luce, ONEplace @ kpl
Nonprofit Leaders Urged to Rethink Their Role in Society
Expanding on a key theme of this year’s Independent Sector conference, Diana Aviv, the group’s president, called on nonprofit leaders at all organizations – regardless of size or mission – to take a broad view of their work and their responsibility to help make society better.
“We do not and cannot work in a vacuum,” she told participants at the gathering of charities and grant makers, which drew some about 1,100 attendees in all.
“If our employees and their families can’t afford medical care, it limits their productivity,” she said. “If our transportation infrastructure makes it hard to get to work, it affects people’s performance. If we don’t collectively attend to the harm inflicted on our environment, polluted air and climate change will ultimately damage everyone’s work. And if we don’t demand greater civility in Congress and in the public square, we diminish our ability to achieve our aims.”
Ms. Aviv urged nonprofit leaders “to attend to these larger issues long before they threaten our work.”
As an example of the consequences of not doing so, she cited the experiences of health and human-services groups that now must take on loans as state and local governments increasingly delay payments for services already provided.
“Except for a sliver of public-interest organizations, at no time did we step up and try to fix a system that we have known to be problematic for years,” she said. “Why was this the case? Because we have long believed that these larger issues were not our responsibility.”
She called on participants to go back to their organizations and have at least one board meeting within the next year to define a role for their groups beyond their specific issue or cause.
“My point is that excelling at your particular mission is key – but so too is attending to the wider societal issues of the world you inhabit,” she said. “Active engagement with these issues is part of the price we pay for this special place we, as a community, have been afforded by society.”
— Jennifer Moore
Independent Sector and Council of Michigan Foundations Annual Conference
TIME SENSITIVE NEWS:
Recover Michigan and Michigan NOW! Programs Offer Capacity Building Opportunities to Small Nonprofits in Kalamazoo County and Across Michigan
NOTE: Attending an Orientation session for the programs is mandatory. ONEplace is hosting an orientation session on Friday, October 30, from 10 to noon in the Van Deusen Room of Kalamazoo Public Library, Central. Additional Orientation sessions will be held between October 26 and November 5 across the state. See the websites below for additional information or contact ONEplace at 553-7910.
Recover Michigan is a three phase program implemented by the Michigan Nonprofit Association and seven Management Support Organizations throughout the State of Michigan. During the eleven-month three-phase program, community and faith based nonprofit organizations will position themselves to strengthen their effectiveness to address the broad economic recovery issues present in their communities.
Services Offered at No-Fee
Trainings, Consulting, and Grant Opportunities (sub awards) in the areas of:
- Program Development
- Leadership Development
- Collaboration and Community Engagement
- Organizational Development
Who Can Apply?
Incorporated community and faith based Michigan nonprofit organizations with a budget less than $500,000, and specializing in assisting low-income individuals in the following areas are welcome to apply:
- secure and retain employment
- earn higher wages
- obtain better quality jobs
- gain greater access to state and federal benefits, and tax credits
Recover Michigan is a federally funded under the authority of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 – Strengthening Communities Fund (SCF).
Michigan NOW! is a three phase program implemented by the Michigan Nonprofit Association and five Management Support Organizations throughout the State of Michigan. During the eleven-month three-phase program, community and faith based nonprofit organizations will position themselves to strengthen their effectiveness to address the broad social issues present in their communities.
Services Offered at No-Fee
Trainings, Consulting, and Grant Opportunities (sub awards) in the areas of:
- Program Development
- Revenue Development
- Leadership Development
- Collaboration and Community Engagement
- Organizational Development
Who Can Apply?
Incorporated, Michigan nonprofit organizations, with a budget less than $500,000, and specialize in assisting the following populations are welcome to apply:
- at-risk youth
- the homeless
- seniors/elders in need
- welfare to work transitions
- those in need of intensive rehabilitation
- couples who choose marriage
- prisoner reentry initiatives
- children of incarcerated individuals
Michigan NOW! is a federally funded under the authority of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Community Services, Compassion Capital Fund Demonstration Program (CCF).
Recover Michigan and Michigan NOW! Programs
During a three-week stay in Kalamazoo in July, a Colleagues International delegation from Belarus studied nonprofit management in the United States.
The group of community and nonprofit leaders, and a journalist, visited a wide variety of nonprofits in West Michigan—the list is long and thorough: arts, education, human services, government…and ONEplace @ kpl.
They came to ONEplace to learn how we train nonprofit managers and staff in the skills they need to start, develop, and sustain nonprofit. They asked many probing questions and studied the answers closely.
Once their questions were satisfied, they talked about the nonprofit sector in Belarus. It was clear their nonprofit sector is young and growing, and they are determined to help develop it into a vibrant sector in their communities.
The conversation took place through an interpreter which made the exchange even more interesting and deliberate than had it been in one language.
We were pleased to host our Belarus Colleagues, seen here in ONEplace.
On Tuesday, September 22, representatives of Michigan’s nonprofit organizations will gather in Lansing for the annual Michigan Nonprofit Day. This is the one day each year that nonprofits and our state legislative representatives (individually and collectively) focus on the nonprofit sector. It’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss.
Highlights of the day include:
- Morning Breakfast Plenary with co-chairs of the Michigan Legislative Nonprofit Caucus
- Keynote address by Robert Egger, Founder and President of the DC Central Kitchen and author of Begging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making Nonprofits Responsive, Efficient and Rewarding For All
- One-on-one meetings with House and Senate members
- Lunch with Legislators
- Mini breakout sessions on making sure everyone is counted in the Census, basics of lobbying and advocacy, grassroots mobilization and media advocacy in a digital world
- VIP Tour of the State Capitol
Never met with a senator or representative? Two webinars will be held for registrants prior to Nonprofit Day to help prepare you for productive meetings, either individually or in groups.
Information and registration
Michigan Nonprofit Day
Just as important―and some would say more important―as a fund development audit, is a risk management audit.
Nonprofits are governed by many of the same laws and liabilities as for-profit businesses, and some additional ones related to tax-exempt status and charitable donations. Whether newly-formed or operating for years, many nonprofits neglect the business side of their organizations because they “don't know what they don't know” or are concentrating so hard on doing their mission-driven work. Especially vulnerable are long-time all-volunteer organizations.
If your organization hasn't conducted a risk assessment or audit in the past year, or ever, now is the time, before a crisis occurs. Like a fund development audit, it starts with an evaluation of your organization’s governance decisions, policies, and insurance coverage to determine which ones are working for you or against you or missing all together.
On July 15, Dan Willson of Lighthouse Agency will lead our Roundtable discussion on the risk management side of operating a nonprofit and answer your liability exposure and coverage questions. He will provide a checklist of items to review for a variety of situations so you can start an audit immediately.
Additional resources are available at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center website which, this summer, is focusing on employment law issues for nonprofits. A big question being covered is: Are summer interns considered employees under state and federal laws? Visit www.nonprofitrisk.org for the answer.