News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
Let’s be real…September really starts the year. In addition to school, many programs, seasons, and endeavors of all sorts begin in the fall.
As I look ahead to this, my first year as director of ONEplace@kpl, I look forward to the activities, the people, the fun, the challenges, and all the ups and downs. I make plans secure in the knowledge that few things go as planned. I set a course confident that I will, more than once, find myself off course. I claim a vision encouraged by surety of surprising twists and turns.
Emboldened by the barriers, hurdles and miscues that lie ahead, I open my eyes wide and dive right in. But, that’s leadership – keeping the endeavor mission-focused over the long haul while events and circumstances (largely beyond our control) would draw it off course.
Fortunately, while we may feel isolated from time to time, none of us have to face our challenges alone. My greatest joy over the past two months has been the daily confirmation that all of us in the nonprofit community are on the same team. Every engaging post-workshop Q&A session, roundtable discussion, and counseling interaction draws upon a shared commitment to building a Greater Kalamazoo. We’re on the same team – not by virtue of common funders but because of a common passion and our common commitment to live, work, play and thrive in this place we all call home.
So, here we go! Another year kicks off promising nothing more than the opportunity to engage. Go for it – great things lie ahead.
A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. English Proverb
I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand
Charles Schultz bestowed those words on Linus Van Pelt in November 1959, and supervisors far and wide continue to quote him. Why? Because, like a siren’s call…
Beautifully constructed and multi-colored, the geometric artifices of management process leap from the page into our unfiltered imagination, and we bask in the glow of a well-ordered workplace. Suddenly, our idyllic vision explodes! “Real people” have entered the picture and our so-called process is mangled and shredded to bits. Men and women – full of their own “thoughts” and “opinions” – actually care and act upon their unsolicited thoughts and opinions. What’s a manger to do!?!
I trust that your supervisory task is not that bad. Even so, our clean, well-ordered supervisory systems get various degrees of messy once applied to real life. That’s why ONEplace@kpl is bringing back Paul Knudstrup’s Nonprofit Supervision and Management Series.
Based on his book, The 8 Essential Skills for Managers and Supervisors, this five-session series explores key issues and strategies in supervision and management:
• What do managers really do?
• What’s different about managing a nonprofit?
• How good communication helps create healthy relationships and a strong work environment
• Focusing on achieving the results needed by your organization
• Empowering your staff
• Taking responsibility for your ongoing growth and development
• And much more
While each session is independent, they build upon each other, so committing to the entire course will bring the greatest benefit. As an incentive, those who attend all five sessions receive a free copy of Paul’s book.
The sessions run Monday mornings Sep 10, 17, 24, Oct 1 and 15 (more info). Space is limited for this popular course, so sign up early.
The 8 Essential Skills for Managers and Supervisors
The updated (5th edition) of Guide to Proposal Writing arrived this month. It is one of the many resources available to you through our being a Cooperative Collection participant with the Foundation Center.
As a Cooperative Collection site, ONEplace@kpl offers visitors free access to the Foundation Directory Online. Updated each week, the Foundation Directory Online includes details on over 100,000 funders and more than 2.4 million recent grants. ONEplace@kpl has two computers dedicated to this service, each with written instructions to help you do effective searches of grantmakers, companies, grants, and 990’s.
Other Cooperative Collection resources at ONEplace include:
• After the Grant: The Nonprofit’s Guide to Good Stewardship
• Board Member’s Book
• Grantseeker’s Guide to Winning Proposals
• Key Facts on Social Justice Grantmaking
• Securing Your Organization’s Future
• And more
Stop by ONEplace@kpl (second floor, across from the elevators) and browse our nonprofit collection. There’s a wealth of information on leadership, management, fund development, and marketing/communications waiting for you.
Guide to Proposal Writing
“Is Your Nonprofit’s Website Media Friendly?” An interesting blog by this name dropped into my email box this week from NonprofitPR.org. They point out the need for nonprofits to help media staff: find you; learn about you; and believe in your credibility—FAST. They are always on a deadline, so the more you can help them, the better.
Especially in our changing media environment—with newspapers morphing to online publications, local radio and television sources moving to more ‘canned’ programming—nonprofits must help the remaining journalists any way we can. Websites are the perfect way, since they are available 24/7.
Answer these questions to learn if your website is ‘media-friendly’:
- Is your website easy to find? Or, do you have an obscure name or one that is too long or clever?
- Are your designated media contacts ‘front and center,’ with direct phone/email addresses?
- Is the content on your site current—regularly updated—and ‘real’ news-worthy news?
- Do you have a section showing previous media coverage you’ve had?
- Do you have experts on your staff or board who media can trust on topics the media may be researching or seeking when ‘news hits’? Include short bios of your experts.
By helping media find you, learn about you, and reach out to you when they need to, your nonprofit will gain excellent PR and be seen as a community authority and resource far beyond the media.
The NonprofitPR.org blog is produced by Shoestring Creative Group, a source of free samples, ideas, blogs, and more. Check them out.
Is Your Nonprofit’s Website Media Friendly?
Mark Grimm recently presented an AFP webinar on the financial impacts of compelling messages. He says your communication has to show impact in less than 15 seconds! The way to do that is through simple, clear, precise language. He suggests achieving clear messages by ‘peeling the onion,’ over and over, until the focus is on core benefits to the reader (potential donor). The focus has to be on the reader, not the writer and his/her perspective from within the organization.
“You are proving to the donor you are making the change in the world the donor wants to pay for.” ~~Robbe Healy, Farr Healy Consulting
Clarity is the Issue
- Simplicity: uncluttered; no jargon
- Precise: no extra words; only what is important
- Benefits, not services/programs: what the organization really delivers to everyday people
- Prove it: select data that ‘tell the benefit story’
- Emotion and reason: use testimonials related to the top three impact areas
- Human face: connect with the reader with eye-catching visuals
By writing with clarity, (potential) donors are more easily drawn into your message, mission, and impact—and, more likely to find what they want to pay for. Once donors invest in your organization, thank them and ask why they gave a gift. Simple, yet so seldom done. Their answers will help build relationships and further clarify your next message.
ONEplace presented an Association of Fundraising Professionals webinar this week, in which Sandy Rees, CFRE, provided a system for sustainable fundraising that can be implemented at nonprofits of all sizes and lifecycle stages.
Her system includes seven basic steps and several planning tools to assure a structured, balanced approach.
Step 1: Make fundraising a priority.
Step 2: Understand why people give.
Step 3: Identify the best donor prospect.
Step 4: Tell your story.
Step 5: Plan how and when will you ask for a gift.
Step 6: Acknowledge the gift and build relationships.
Step 7: Evaluate success.
Sounds a lot like other fundraising advice, right? Sandy’s model spells out what each of the steps means, and how to put each into action in a methodical, approachable way using a number of planning charts. Detailed, written planning is the difference in her model.
Her website has a wealth of practical resources and tips, including: a free CD for beginning fundraisers, videos, an eNews, books and CD sets, and blogs.
Hope you find some helpful information to set you on the path to ‘getting fully funded.’
Get Fully Funded
As we near the end of 2011, many of us will be making what we believe to be ‘tax-deductible donations’ to charitable causes. Before making a donation and listing it on your tax return, please review the following current regulations, including how to document electronic gifts. As our law makers search for ways to resolve state and national economic challenges, regulations will continue to change, so staying current is in everyone’s best interest.
In addition, during this past year, over 275,000 organizations, nationwide, were dropped from tax-exempt status, so checking the status of organizations is more important than ever. Publication 78 lists current eligible organizations.
Here is a summary of IRS rules, direct from their website, with links to publications they refer to at the end:
IRS Tax Tip 2011-57, March 22, 2011 (http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=106990,00.html)
Charitable contributions made to qualified organizations may help lower your tax bill. The IRS has put together the following eight tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.
- If your goal is a legitimate tax deduction, then you must be giving to a qualified organization. Also, you cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates. See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for rules on what constitutes a qualified organization.
- To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.
- If you receive a benefit because of your contribution such as merchandise, tickets to a ball game or other goods and services, then you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
- Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
- Fair market value is generally the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts.
- Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution and amount of the contribution. For text message donations, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.
- To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
- Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.
For more information on charitable contributions, refer to Form 8283 and its instructions, as well as Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. For information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These forms and publications are available at http://www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
IRS Tax Tip 2011-57
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!
A new article in the Nonprofit Quarterly by Simone Joyaux (See-MUN Zha-WHY-oh) adds another element to the discussion as she asks, “Are You So Vain?” Is your organization thinking about (and acting like) fundraising is all about you, instead of being all about the donor? She offers an assessment tool to look at your practices and attitudes, and a pledge to commit to, that will help your organization lose its vanity and gain donor loyalty.
Below are the first ten of 23 pledge items. You can find the complete list on her website. PDF
The Donor-Centric Pledge
We, [fill in the name of your nonprofit organization here], believe…
- That donors are essential to the success of our mission.
- That gifts are not “cash transactions.” Donors are not merely a bunch of interchangeable, easily replaceable credit cards, checkbooks and wallets.
- That no one “owes” us a gift just because our mission is worthy.
- That any person who chooses to become our donor has enormous potential to assist the mission.
- That having a program for developing a relationship with that donor is how organizations tap that enormous potential.
- That we waste that potential when donors are not promptly thanked.
- That “lifetime value of a donor” is the best (though often overlooked) way to evaluate “return on investment” in fundraising.
- That donors are more important than donations. Those who currently make small gifts are just as interesting to us as those who currently make large gifts.
- That acquiring first-time donors is easy but keeping those donors is hard.
- That many first-time gifts are no more than “impulse purchases” or “first dates.”
I recommend having several people in your organization take the assessment to see where your organization stands. Then, take the pledge and work the pledge over the coming months to see what a difference new actions and attitudes can make in your donor/nonprofit relationships and fundraising. http://simonejoyaux.com/ss_files/downloads/DonorCentricPledge.pdf.
Simone Joyaux: The Donor-Centric Pledge
Several fundraising and philanthropy organizations and journals, web-based experts, and sector associations are predicting ‘tough years ahead’ for all types of fundraising. Holly Hall’s article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (June 2011) cites a Giving USA report indicating giving has fallen more since 2008 than in the past 50 years.
An article in the August 24th Chronicle cites a new report by Dunham+Company that shows two-thirds of donors surveyed plan to cut back on giving this fall—and, 10% plan to stop giving altogether!
The slow recovery and current threat of a double-dip recession, along with continued unemployment, suggest ‘it could be as long as 2016 before donations return to’ pre-recession levels.
Adding to the economic issues, the national deficit reduction talks and policy conversations may lead to additional challenges for nonprofits relying on donations to keep their doors open and serve their constituents.
What can nonprofits do? Take steps, today, to increase your skills and relationships!
The annual, year-end fundraising season is fast approaching! What can organizations do, now, to connect with their donors in more meaningful ways, and find new people to support their mission, in this environment?
- Learn all you can about your donors and why they support your organization. What is ‘in it for them’ rather than what’s in it for the organization?
- Gather stories (and photos) of real people benefitting from your programs and services to ‘show and tell’ what you do and what difference it makes.
- Attend workshops and webinars at ONEplace and elsewhere to learn all you can about fundraising, donor relations, and communication.
- Seek online resources, such as the Chronicle; blogs by fundraising experts across the country, like Tom Ahern or Donor Power; or, voices of experience on Monday Movies, Fundraising and Awareness Movies for Nonprofits; and, many more.
What can donors do? Take steps to know what your gifts do in the community/world and give** generously to those you believe in.
As donors, the choice is yours to invest in a nonprofit or not.
- Why do you support the organizations you do and not others? How and when did you start giving to them? Are you involved in any other way? How much do you really know about them?
- Have you stopped donating to some nonprofits? Why? Would you consider renewing gifts to them? Why?
- Are you sure nonprofits you want to donate to are still tax-exempt? Check the new IRS rules.
- Study online resources for donors that will help your decision making: TakeAction@GuideStar; Questions to Ask; and the Donor Bill of Rights from the Association of Fundraising Professionals
- **Invest in the nonprofits you believe in and trust, generously, with your gifts of money, time, expertise, and ambassadorship. You will help make our community and world a better place during this challenging time, and always. Thank you!
ONEplace @ KPL