Friday, November 21, 2008

Updating Your Nonprofit's Policies

We received a great question today about personnel policies:
1)When the personnel handbook policies are rewritten and adopted, does this negate all previous policies?

Share your input on this question or check back for the answer from CCSNYS Legal Accountability & Compliance Services. A quick point about your nonprofit's personnel policies: CCSNYS recommends that you have these policies reviewed on a regular basis in order to protect your organization and stay up on changes to employment laws and regulations.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In Defense of Raising Money: A Manifesto for Nonprofit CEOs

An Executive Director recently recommended this essay, which was posted by Seth Godin on his blog:
In Defense of Raising Money: A Manifesto for Nonprofit CEOs
The director of business development at the Acumen Fund has been linked all over the web for his essay that begins “I’m sick of apologizing for being in charge of raising money.” He wonders, “How is it that in the nonprofit sector we create this illusion that growth and change and impact can happen absent … energy and engagement?” This link goes to Seth’s Blog; original PDF here.

Employee Info Retention Question

The following questions were submitted to us by a nonprofit director regarding employee records: How long does a not-for-profit have to hold on to past employee information, including attendance records?

CCSNYS Legal Advisor Mike West provided the following guidance: The art of effective record retention boils down to two standards -- reason and risk. Some business people fear risking adverse consequences and hang on to everything forever -- this is the kind of unreasonable behavior that can turn your office into a landfill! Others trash everything early and often -- an unreasonably risky path to neatness.

To guide you in minimizing your risks, there are generally accepted, reasonable time periods recommended for retaining business records. Mike further relates that in a nutshell, most sensitive employment records must be saved for a period of 7 years. More specific examples are:
  • Time books/cards (for exempt & non-exempt employees) -- 7 years
  • Time cards/sheets -- 3 years after record is made
  • Payroll records and summaries, pensions, payroll taxes -- 7 years
  • Personnel records -- 1 year from making the record

Here is an example records retention policy provided by the National Council of Nonprofits.

Have a hr question? Post it or e-mail it to share on NYNED. Also, consider CCSNYS membership, which offers members access to the CCSNYS Legal Accountability and Compliance Services staff.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New “Nonprofit Economic Vitality Center” Launched

With the economy battering corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals, Tim Delaney, President & CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, says that the most frequent question he gets these days is: How is the economic downturn affecting America’s nonprofits?

The inescapable answer is that already limited resources are being stretched even thinner. The gap between the increasing demands for more nonprofit services and the plummeting financial support they receive is accelerating, prompting many nonprofits to scramble for options.

So the real question that needs to be asked, says Delaney, is a different one: How can nonprofits continue serving their communities’ expanding needs on dwindling budgets?

To give nonprofits tools to answer this question, the National Council of Nonprofits has assembled the Nonprofit Economic Vitality Center, a free, online clearinghouse of resources designed to help nonprofits cope with the multiple challenges created by the faltering economy.

The Nonprofit Economic Vitality Center consists of three “Focus Areas”: Basic Facts & Analysis, Impact on Nonprofits, and Proactive Positioning—Action Steps for Nonprofits. In combination, these sections aim at helping not only nonprofits but also grant makers, journalists, policy makers, and the general public understand the scope of the economic downturn, how it affects nonprofits in various subsectors and regions across the country, and what nonprofits can do to weather these turbulent times.

An evolving tool, the Nonprofit Economic Vitality Center is updated continuously with new resources, allowing nonprofits to adapt to changes in the economy as they happen. Each resource added to the Vitality Center is vetted by the National Council’s staff before being posted for public view, making the Vitality Center more relevant and effective than a search engine for finding these types of resources.

Visit the Nonprofit Economic Vitality Center.

The National Council of Nonprofits (formerly the National Council of Nonprofit Associations) is the network of state and regional nonprofit associations serving more than 20,000 member organizations. By linking local nonprofit organizations across the nation through state associations, the National Council of Nonprofits helps small and midsize nonprofits manage and lead more effectively, collaborate and exchange solutions, engage in critical policy issues affecting the sector, and achieve greater impact in their communities.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ideas from Others: Middle Tennesee Nonprofits

As the Leatherstocking AEA moves forward on collecting ideas and input for meeting current economic challenges, other nonprofits across the U.S. are having similar conversations. Featured here is The Center for Nonprofit Management, located in Middle Tennessee, and their results from a series called “Weathering the Economic Storm.” Here are some details:
We learned from you that the Middle Tennessee nonprofit community is
determined to come together to learn strategies from each other on how to
overcome this challenging climate. From all the sessions, we compiled a list of
tips from you and our experts that moderated the sessions.

  • Go back to basics: Refresh yourself on your core mission and make sure your organization is only serving that basic principal. If you have to trim, always trim back to your mission.
  • If it becomes necessary to merge the organization to keep the programs alive, this might be the time to take that action - remember it is the service that matters rather than the agency.
  • To that end, put new initiatives on the back burner… unless you know how you will pay for them in a sustainable way
  • If you were planning a capital campaign, consider moving back its starting date; if your capital campaign is in progress, consider a temporary pause in making requests.
  • If you need to, cut something loose that you provide as a service that another agency does well. Inform that agency that you are stopping that service so it can pick up the ball.
  • Develop contingency plans for different budget models (e.g. 10%, 25% cutback budgets) so you have a back-up plan if past funding sources don’t come through. Use cost/benefit analyses to determine what to reduce and what to maintain.
  • In an effort to cut costs, try to renegotiate your leases or other administrative arrangements
  • Make sure you have a strong message that you can communicate easily, in writing and verbally, both to use with donors and with the public at-large
  • Communicate with board and staff about what is going on
  • Use volunteers wherever you can. Be creative. Contact Hands on Nashville at (615) 298-1108 for ideas and assistance.
  • A special kind of volunteerism is a loaned executive program. Boomers or others from friendly corporations might take the place of paid staff.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for anything you need. Whether it’s an in-kind donation, or to a contributor that said “no” the first time.
  • Consider asking past donors to change restricted gifts into unrestricted for the 2009 year.
  • Consider asking past donors to make payments earlier of previously-made pledges.
  • Look for creative and innovative ways to raise money.
  • Save dollars by outsourcing programs instead of using staff.
  • Don’t be afraid to collaborate. Joint ventures can be a great thing for your organization and its long term viability.
  • Keep your key funders in the loop (they should not find out what is going on in the media!)
  • Engage government and business to influence public policy decisions.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Resource Sharing Roundtable

At the suggestion of Julie Dostal, Executive Director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions, a roundtable discussion will be scheduled in December for nonprofits to discuss ways to respond to budget cuts and decreasing revenues. The following survey will help gather ideas for this discussion on sharing resources, cutting costs, and sustaining operations. Feel free to share your feedback and input on this idea.

November 12th Program: Marketing Tips and Tools Wrap Up

Our final meeting for 2008 was an engaging program featuring the Baseball Hall of Fame's Director of Communications, Craig Muder. With a decade long career in the newspaper industry and now employed by a nonprofit organization he used to cover, Craig provided invaluable insight into the media world and how nonprofits can make sense of its sometimes frustrating systems. He imparted three main points.
  • First, relationship building is the key. He discussed how you need to make the media feel like they are a part of what you are building.
  • Second, the media is an imperfect system. You cannot expect your message to be delivered as is, so self-publishing should be a focus. By using your nonprofit's website, you can control and reinforce your message.
  • Lastly, nonprofits need to understand that the media is not plotting at their desks to screw up your message. They are trying to produce a product as quickly as possible in a highly competitive environment.

Craig also offered insight into the newspaper world. He outlined how much planning goes into assembling a newspaper, especially in terms of coverage. Like any organization, the media have limited time and resources. He suggested that nonprofits should notify the media about events and issues two weeks in advance and follow up with a reminder phone call.

The 15 participants who attended the meeting continued the discussion with a number of questions. One such question was asked about how nonprofits can build relationships with the media. Craig's advice was to be honest. He also suggested identifying people in the media who seem to be committed to their jobs. There is significant turnover in media, especially among reporters.

The program ended with a discussion about negative or unwanted press coverage and the challenges in dealing with it. Craig's advice was that you have to remember the idea a reporter is pursuing for a story usually is coming from the top. The best way to respond is to not be defensive and work to give the reporter your angle on the issue. Help the reporter do their job and influence them with your perspective. Usually, you will have some success in getting your point across.

Do you have your own tips for success with the media, especially in dealing with negativity? Feel free to share them here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

E-mail and Electronic Records Retention Policy

We receive a request recently for an e-mail and electronic records retention policy. With the significant focus on e-mail and other electronic communication (like blogs, twitter, chat rooms, etc), it is more important than ever to have a policy in place . Take a look at the following article by Jenna F. Leavitt, Esq., titled Designing a Compliant Electronic Record-Retention Policy for Your Association. Although the article is written in regards to associations, this information is very applicable to nonprofits.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Make Marketing a Board Priority

Marketing is often an afterthought for many nonprofits, and convincing a board of directors of its importance can be a challenging task.

Ann, an executive director from a Central New York nonprofit relates just how challenging this can be. "My board is never very supportive of our marketing efforts and they don't see how important this can be to our success," she says. "It's a challenge to approve the budget to create materials and the website we so desperately need. I'm frustrated because at each board meeting it's discussed how we need to secure more donors, the big-time donors, and have better turn out at our events. My board just doesn't make the connection that without marketing ourselves, people don't really know who we are or our impact on the community."

Here are some steps to help a board of directors make marketing a priority:

Hold board training
Utilize a communications consultant to train the board to understand the benefits of developing marketing strategies to promote the impact and message of the organization.
Sometimes an outside perspective is necessary for the board to understand the value of marketing and for added support of the CEO or executive director's ideas.

Diversify the board of directors
Seek out new board members from the private sector that either have a marketing and communications background or that utilize marketing effectively in their businesses.
Diversifying the board can help with marketing, fund development, finance and many other challenges that nonprofits face.

Develop a marketing plan
Work with the board to develop a marketing plan for the organization to lay the foundation for marketing efforts. Don't forget to include marketing in the overall organizational strategic plan.

Include communications in grant proposals
Always include a communications piece in all grant proposals to help build a marketing budget. Also, seek local business support to help underwrite marketing efforts.

Show concrete results
Relate the impact of marketing efforts in a language boards can understand. Instead of stating a goal to increase the awareness of XYZ nonprofit, state the goal in a measurable way. Through marketing efforts, as determined in the marketing plan, XYZ nonprofit will develop 4 new media contacts this year, increase foundation support by 20 percent and have 150 attendees at an event. Keep the Board updated on the progress and evaluate whether the marketing strategies utilized are effective. Most importantly, show the return on investment of marketing efforts.

Stacy Jones is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in Troy, N.Y. and a Shoestring Creative Group Network Affiliate. Stacy can be reached at or 518-365-2153.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

NY Policy Update

NY Policy News
Nonprofit mental health organizations’ boards must have trainingS08047 would have set training requirements for boards of not for profit organizations that deal with mental health issues. The bill also set disclosure requirements; however, it was vetoed by the Governor on September 28, 2008.

Nonprofit Policy Update

Nonprofit Federal Policy Update provided by the National Council of Nonprofits, a dynamic, national network that links nonprofits to achieve greater impact in our communities.

Will There Be a Second Economic Stimulus Package?
Democrats may push to enact a $61 billion stimulus bill in a lame duck session later this month if they can secure Republican support. Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that the Senate pass the $61 billion package (HR 7110) that the House passed in September, and which included funding for infrastructure projects, state Medicaid programs, an extension of unemployment insurance and food stamps. In September, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a similar $56.2 billion stimulus bill (S 3604). Democrats are hoping that GOP losses in Tuesday’s election and the worsening economy may soften the Senate minority’s stance. In recent weeks, the White House has signaled it is open to ideas but has dismissed many of the Democrats’ proposals as not being stimulative. CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS, 11/5/08

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke supports another stimulus package, as do state and local officials facing budget shortfalls. They urged Congress at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week to open up the recently enacted financial industry bailout plan to state and local authorities struggling to find buyers for tax-exempt bonds. New York Governor David Paterson asked lawmakers to provide a direct infusion of federal spending to states, including a temporary five percent increase in federal support to states for Medicaid through fiscal 2011, an additional seven weeks of emergency benefits for unemployed workers, and a temporary increase in funding for the food stamp program. CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS, 10/28/08, 10/29/08

The Revised GIVE Act regarding charitable volunteer mileage may have a breath of life were a stimulus package to be agreed upon, but that is highly speculative right now.

Final Regulations Issued Implementing College Loan Forgiveness Provisions for Nonprofit Employees
The Department of Education has published final regulations for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (CCRAA). This Act provides for loan forgiveness for full time employees of “public service organizations," a provision the National Council of Nonprofits successfully lobbied to expand to include all 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Nonprofit full-time employees (at least 30 hours a week) making monthly college loan repayments can count each month of nonprofit employment towards the 120 months of payments needed to qualify for forgiveness of the remaining loan balance, beginning with payments after October 1, 2007. The effective date applies to payments, and thus existing nonprofit employees with outstanding student loans of more than ten years future duration can benefit from this provision. For more information, see a Q & A on our website.

Rush to Finalize Regulations by Bush Administration
The Bush Administration has been pushing to revise a wide array of federal regulations in the next two and a half months. Look for more deregulation of private industry, the easing of emission controls, and relaxed drinking water standards. As many as 90 new regulations are in process, including proposed rules governing family and medical leave. The Washington Post, 10/31/08