Friday, August 5, 2011

Exempt Magazine Preview Part 2

Thought I would give our readers an excerpt from another one of the articles from the newest issue of NPT's Exempt Magazine.  This article is about 403(b) plans:

In Revenue Ruling 2011-7 issued earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provided sponsors of 403(b) plans with some much-needed guidance regarding how to terminate plans. Many 403(b) plan sponsors have been reconsidering whether they want to continue to maintain such plans in light of the final regulations that were issued by the IRS in 2007 covering 403(b) plans.


Until this guidance was issued, the IRS’s position was, generally, that a 403(b) plan could not be terminated, so the guidance is a welcomed step. However, there are issues that have not been addressed by the IRS in the guidance and issues that plan sponsors may need to address to terminate their plans.


Steps to Plan Termination


The guidance outlines the steps a plan sponsor needs to take to effectively terminate a plan and to distribute plan assets. Below is a brief discussion of each of the steps and potential issues that a plan sponsor must consider.


Adopt a Binding Resolution to Terminate the Plan. On or before the date of termination, the plan sponsor must adopt a binding resolution establishing the termination date, freezing contributions to the plan, discontinuing the purchase of annuity contracts or mutual funds, fully vesting all plan participants, approving the distribution of plan benefits and approving the termination of the plan.


This would seem to be relatively simple, except that the IRS assumes that a plan’s document(s) allow the plan sponsor to terminate its plan. However, this is frequently not the case, so plan sponsors must review the plan document to be sure it allows for the termination. If the plan document does not contain termination provisions, then the plan sponsor should consult with a plan advisor to determine if the language authorizing the termination can be added to allow for it.

Be sure to read the full article over at The NonProfit Times.

NY Governor Cuomo To Investigate Nonprofit Executive Pay

Governor Andrew Cuomo
In a blog post on The New York Times, it was reported that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo planned to create a task force to investigate executive compensation at nonprofits that receive taxpayer money.  The task force will consist of: NY inspector general Ellen Biben, Secretary of State Cesar Perales, NY Medicaid inspector general James Cox, and superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky.


 Cuomo's decision came after a Saturday report in the Times reported on the high salaries and perks executives got at the Young Adult Institute.  Specifically, the article tells the story of Philip and Joel Levy, who had headed the organization since the 1970s before their sudden retirement at the end of June.

In addition to the close to $1 million in annual salaries they made each year, the Levy brothers had some questionable perks.  To name just a few, they were allowed to bill the organization to cover their children's college tuition, and Philip charged the institute $50,400 to pay for his daughter's co-op in Greenwich Village.  The article also detailed other high salaries among nonprofits that relied on state Medicaid funding from the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).  These salaries were far and away higher than those paid at similarly sized organizations.

According to the NYT blog post, Nonprofits may lobby against regulations to executive compensation, as they had in similar cases that occurred in Massachusetts.  In an era where Americans have a bad taste in their mouths from the bank bailout and stories of corporate greed, any executive compensation that is seen as executive is going to be highly scrutinized.  If there is any update on the findings of the task force, we will be sure to post them here.  In the mean time, head on over to The New York Times to read the full blog post on this topic.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

No Changes To Charitable Deduction In Debt Deal

You may remember that we wrote a while back that nonprofit executive were urging Congress and the administration not to reduce the charitable deduction in their negotiations to raise the debt ceiling.  Now that President Obama has put his signature on the so-called debt deal, nonprofits will be happy to know that charitable deduction is safe--for now.

In an article on The Huffington Post, we learn that although the initial deal didn't produce any changes, nonprofits are not out of the woods yet.  The "Super Congress," created by the deal to find additional deficit reduction measures, may turn their sights on charitable tax breaks yet again.  The President has continued to say that he believes these tax breaks are unfair, and nonprofits are working under the assumption that reductions to the charitable deduction will continue to be on the table.

On the other side of the debate, Huffington Post cites a piece from The ETF Daily News that says reducing charitable deductions would help shrink the budget by $50 million.  That same article also claims that it would help middle class families that don't usually itemize their deductions.  Hopefully the debt ceiling drama didn't tire you out, because it looks like we are in for another political battle once the Super Congress reports back in November.

Read the full article on the debt deal by visiting The Huffington Post.

Special Note From The Editor Of The NonProfit Times

I’m Paul Clolery, editorial director of The NonProfit Times. First, thanks for being a loyal reader. As such, you know that we do plenty of original research. I want to bring your attention, via this email, to a special research report we have been working on. It's called The Best Nonprofits to Work For.

This is an important benchmarking study that we share with all of our subscribers in exploring some of the best practices for managing manage internal and external relationships.

The real benefit for you participating is the knowledge gained in what makes an organization a viable and attractive place to work. We look at retention strategies on how employees look at their organization, what techniques and policies they find effective and also how managers perceive their own work and style.

The annual study needs your help to continue this important work. We have an independent company evaluate the study results and select what they think is the best managed nonprofits, recognizing the size of the organization and it's resources. But the real work is in the results that make all of us better nonprofit practitioners.

Simply click on the link http://www.bestnonprofitstoworkfor.com/ to start the process. We will publish the results in our April, 2012 issue and I will make sure you get an executive summary as a thank you for your time and knowledge contribution.

Thanks again.

Paul Clolery
Editorial Director
The NonProfit Times

Brooklyn Nonprofit Mystery

Why are 196 nonprofits registered to one Brooklyn home?  That's what investigators want to find out.

In a story in Monday's New York Post, it was reported that 196 New York nonprofits are registered to a Brooklyn house without the owners being aware of it.  As if this wasn't strange enough, some of these organizations have ties to a group of rabbis involved in money laundering and child molestation.  It sort of sounds like the plot to a bad movie.  A really bad movie.

As investigators work to figure out this mystery, the Post managed to find out some interesting tidbits.  A dozen of the registrations were traced back to a tax lawyer named Joseph Schubin.  He claimed that the multiple registrations were a mistake by the IRS.  Schubin worked at a dozen of these charities, and he explained that the IRS mistakenly put the address of this Brooklyn home, where he used to work, instead of the organizations official address.  Keep in mind that the IRS nonprofit application requires a charity register its own address.

This is a very odd story, no question about it.  It actually brings to mind a story NPT wrote recently about a man who was registered to 2,300 nonprofits out of one office building in Nevada.  Will there be any other similarities to that story?  We'll have to wait and see.  In the mean time, get the full scoop on this story at The New York Post.

Breaking News: Jerry Lewis Out As MDA Chairman And Host

In a stunning turn of events, The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has announced that legendary comedian Jerry Lewis is out as chairman of the organization.  He will also no longer be appearing on the organization's annual Labor Day Telethon.  It was announced less than three months ago that Lewis would be making one more appearance on the telethon before retiring as host.  He was still to maintain his chairmanship, however.

What changed between now and then is anybody's guess.  Speculation has ranged from Lewis's deteriorating health, to a strange recent appearance at the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour last week.  Several published reports indicated that he said it was "None of your business" when asked about his involvement with the telethon, and that he went on a rant against reality television. 

Regardless of the reason for his departure, it clearly marks the end of an era.  Lewis had hosted the annual telethon since it first ran in 1953 (when he co-hosted with Dean Martin).  The telethon raised nearly $60 million dollars with Lewis at the helm, about a third of the MDA's $180 million in annual revenue.  Although his behavior may have become slightly erratic over the years, it will certainly be strange not seeing Jerry Lewis crooning out "You'll Never Walk Along" at the end of the telethon.  To read the full story on his departure, head on over to The NonProfit Times.  The story will be updated if we get any further information.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Story of Re-Branding

Re-Branding is done for a variety of different reasons.  Sometimes an organization wants to move away from some controversial events that had soiled their previous brand.  Other times, its just the result of an evolution in the organization's thinking.  In the case of Good360 and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), it was clearly an effort to "refresh" their brand.  In the newest issue of The NonProfit Times, the story behind the re-branding of these two nonprofits is discussed:

When Gifts In Kind International (GIKI) changed its name earlier this year, it wasn’t just some tweaks at the edges or a few nips and tucks to its logo. The Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit unveiled its new name, Good360, this past spring, in the midst of revamping its business model in a sort of mashup of Kiva, eBay and DonorsChoose.org.


And, it’s not done yet: Phase II will launch by the end of the summer, integrating its two websites and rolling out an online catalog where individuals can become “microphilanthropists” by underwriting the shipping and handling costs of product donations. Charities often must consider when to transition image and brand, which might have grown from a small, fledgling effort into a nationally recognized organization. It’s not uncommon for nonprofit managers to think about whether the brand needs to be revamped with age or whether to retain the equity in a name it’s had for so long.


For Good360, it turned out to be a new name, web portal and business model, leaving behind a name, and more, that it had for almost 30 years. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), also some 30 years old, didn’t want to lose its established name and brand, so a new logo was characterized as a “refresh” of the brand.

(read the full article here)

The article goes on to paint a fascinating story of the process behind the rebranding of these two organizations.  There comes a time in the life of any nonprofit where major changes have to be made in order to ensure continuing success.  Change can be difficult but, as you can see with Good360 and MADD, they can ultimately be for the better.  Has your organization ever had to undergo changes like these?  Please feel free to share your stories with us in the comment section.

Erie Gives Day Rakes In The Cash

A couple of years back, we wrote a story about Giving Days in a number of states.  Those events were met with a great deal of success, and now it appears Erie, Pennsylvania is experiencing the benefits of online philanthropy.

GoErie.com reported today that Erie Gives Day raised $690,513 for the 223 nonprofits that were involved in the event.  Considering that the number stood at $582,038 with only two hours left, the amount raised is staggering.  Community leaders said that the cash raised will significantly boost the nonprofit sector.  The cash comes with additional meaning since organizations are expecting large reductions in state funding later in the year.  The nonprofits involved will receive their donations on August 12th at the Erie Community Foundation.

This story is not only an example of the extraordinary generosity of citizens in this country, but also of the power of online fundraising.  More and more, we are seeing that this medium can be used to great effect.  One of the more recent examples of this came in the case of Reel Grrls's spat with Comcast.

You can read more about Erie Gives Day by visiting GoErie.com.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Exempt Magazine Preview

Have you heard of Exempt Magazine?  It's the sister publication of The NonProfit Times, and it focuses on the financial aspects of the nonprofit sector.  This includes asset management, planned giving, donor advised funds, banking, risk management, investments, insurance, trusts, financial software and technology.  If you have not already subscribed, we just put up 3 articles from the latest issue on the NPT website.  Here is a sample of one of those articles, entitled "Bright Lights & Big Stars":

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Fundraising is all about developing and building relationships with your donors and supporters. For nonprofits looking to corral a few celebrities to help their cause, it’s much the same thing.


Portland, Ore.-based Mercy Corps has been looking to connect with some of its celebrity supporters, to raise its profile, particularly during non-disaster times and among people who go beyond their usual donor base. The disaster relief organization started last summer, dedicating “a good chunk” of time and energy to examining what other organizations are doing in engaging the entertainment world. Out of that came a consensus to hire someone, based in New York or Los Angeles, to focus on the task and not let it fall by the wayside.


“We’d been trying to do this for some time and saw it as something to put longer-term resources behind, ultimately bringing a benefit to us, and thus, to people we serve around world. That’s always the motivation behind any move we make,” said Joy Portella, Mercy Corps’ director of communications.


“It’s been a lengthy process. We certainly thought about how we want to work with not just individual talent, but the whole entertainment industry,” she said. “It’s rare that an organization has just one or two celebrity spokesmen. The whole process that gets them involved with your organization involves networking in Los Angeles and New York, the entertainment industry.”

You can read the full article by clicking here.  If you are interested in seeing the other articles, go to the "articles" section on The NonProfit Times homepage.  Two of the other stories are "Your 403(b): Terminating A Plan" and "Being Flexible."

Management Tip: 3 Elements Of Activist Relationship Management

Here is this week's Management Tip of the Week.  This one comes from the advocacy category:

Every cause needs its activists, but a nonprofit that hopes to get the best it can from concerned individuals needs to understand the potential they offer and to treat them as effectively as possible.


Speaking during the DMA 2011 Washington Nonprofit Conference, Yvonne Garrett of OMP, Inc., Vinay Bhagat of Convio and Randy Paynter of Care2.com said that there are three main areas of concentration, with the second and third combining for a fourth.


The main thrusts:


* Recruit. Be thoughtful about the form of ask. Think about a pledge vs. “contact your legislator.” Think of constituent relevance. Offer multiple venues in addition to your Website. Provide a strong user experience. Remember viral marketing, including social media.


* Engage. Acknowledge returning Web visitors. Send tailored/updated stories. Make related appeals. Use multi-channel appeals: email, text, social. Provide rewards and incentives.


* Convert. Provide campaign-specific donation forms. Have an email welcome/conversion series. Follow up in a timely fashion with mail or TM. Apply filters to prioritize investment. Select appeals based on advocacy actions.


Effective use of the second and third parts leads to a fourth: Deepen. Remember, major donors are frequently active. It is increasingly critical to track messaging intensity/congruency across programs and channels.

To read more like this, check out the advocacy management tips page on The NonProfit Times.

The Changing Geography Of Poverty

When most Americans think of poverty, the first images that usually come to mind are sprawling urban jungles.  Rarely do we ever think of severe poverty taking place in our seemingly perfect suburbs.  Yet according to recent data cited in an article in The New Republic, there are currently more poor people living in the suburbs of major cities. 

The TNR piece doesn't necessarily tackle why this is happening, but it does examine the role philanthropic organizations play in addressing this new "geography" of poverty.  The article cites a study by Sarah Reckhow and Margaret Weir that examined the suburbs of four major American cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and Detroit.  The major finding of their report was that charitable organizations were not well equipped to deal with this geographic shift in poverty.  This has happened for a number of reasons, though I found the most interesting to be donor preferences.  As I hinted at in the opening paragraph, many people still see poverty as an urban problem.  As a result, it seems many donors prefer to send their money to areas that would seem to be prime areas for homelessness.

In addition, the Reckhow and Weir report revealed that there are very few well-funded philanthropic foundations in suburban areas.  Perhaps the most telling issue, however, is that many suburban communities are simply unwilling to support new programs that would help fight poverty.  That seems unfathomable, but it is a reality. 

If you have the time, you should read the rest of this piece in The New Republic.  We would love to hear your thoughts on the issue of poverty in the suburbs.  Have you seen a distinct lack of philanthropic support in your communities?  What steps do you think should be taken to make this issue more well known?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Animal Groups Barking At ASPCA

Here is a sample of one of the aritcles appearing in this month's edition of The NonProfit Times:

As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has grown revenue by 50 percent in recent years, some local SPCAs are becoming increasingly upset that donors are confusing it for an umbrella organization for other animal welfare nonprofits.


The local groups say donors believe that by giving to ASPCA they are also giving to aid local animal rescue organizations.


“The misunderstanding of the name is certainly what's at the core of this current discussion going on,” said Carter Luke, president and CEO the past six years at Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA). He added that he often hears from people who confuse the organizations, thanking MSPCA for something ASPCA did.


“The confusion in the minds of the public has been there certainly since the 1860s, I'd guess,” said Luke. ASPCA was founded 1866 while MSPCA was started in 1868. “What's happened in recent years -- what brought it to the forefront anyway – was a noticeable change in marketing and advertising from the ASPCA around the country,” said Luke.


“We hear this story constantly from people who confuse this. If our last name was humane society, it might not be the same confusion. There is no national umbrella organization,” said Luke, adding that the issue has caused confusion elsewhere.


“Sometimes people look at the Red Cross, with local chapters scattered around the country, but they are connected. The public generally understands that model; there's a national entity with local entities,” Luke said.


There are some who portray the dispute as being about money. Luke disagrees. “It's important for the public to know where their donations are going and what services are provided by it,” he said. “We're making sure we tell our story. We recognize there is no parent organization.”


He said, “In some sense, it's a rising tide raises all ships – the more people involved in helping animals, the better.”

Head on over to NPT's website to read the full story.

The August Issue Of The NonProfit Times Is Out!

Just a heads up to all of our subscribers: A sneak peak of the August issue of The NonProfit Times is now up on the website!  As with the other issues that go up on the site, it contains three articles from the digital and print editions of the issue, a PDF of the Special Report, and three columns.

The August issue contains the newest edition of NPT's Top 50 Power & Influence Report.  In addition, the issue will cover stories ranging from the re-branding of Gifts In Kind International, to animal groups taking issue with the ASPCA.  Check out the NPT website today to get your first look at this exciting new issue!