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Measure What You Do in the Face of New Overtime Rules

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 22, 2016

As the date for implementation of the new overtime rules draws near, nonprofits are beginning to plan their strategies for addressing the increased staff costs. This process is likely to produce some new insights into wage fairness in the sector in general. Some service nonprofits are looking at multiple positions where the new rules will apply.

We have approximately 40 employees that right now are exempt. And with the changes, that will change to only approximately 10,” said Michele Bronson, who handles human resources at the Council on Aging. With an $8 million annual budget that funds services for 164,000 clients, Bronson said compliance is going to mean making some tough decisions about which employees, from case managers to grant writers, will receive a raise.

“The people who work here full time need to work full time. Either we pay overtime for all of those hours, we hire someone else to do that part, which costs money, or look at doing the increase in the salary so we won’t have to have this person go non-exempt,” she said.

Bronson is starting to plan by asking all to employees log their hours, and then she has to analyze whether it’s worth paying overtime.

The regulatory change will raise the non-exempt salary rate from $23,660 to $47,476 annually, meaning that workers who earn less than the threshold will need to track their time and will be paid overtime for weeks they work more than 40 hours. Nonprofits have until December, when the law goes into effect, to determine whether they will be able to raise enough funds to cover the overtime costs or higher salaries, will need to make cuts, or can, as employment attorney Mark Neuberger suggests, “get creative.”

As covered extensively by NPQnonprofit reactions to the new overtime rule have been wide ranging. The overall sentiment seems to be that while nonprofits support the intent of the law, they are worried about how they will implement it and feel its impact. The fear of downsizing, either in terms of staff size or reach of mission, has caused some organizations to protest the rule and a number of members of Congress to introduce opposing legislation.

Andy Schmidt may have made the best argument yet in favor of the overtime rule change in “Is Exploiting Workers Key to Your Nonprofit Enterprise Model? The New Overtime Requirements.” This article implores organizations to take a hard look at themselves and consider whether progress is being made towards mission at the cost of employees. It’s a must-read for any organization that’s facing tough decisions come December.

Rather than fight the overtime change, nonprofits need to begin looking at it through the more positive lens of offering quality over quantity. Nonprofit organizations are fighting some of the most difficult battles, which include poverty, hunger, domestic violence, and human rights. This work can be exhausting both mentally and emotionally, leading to organizations beset with employee burnout and high staff turnover—both of which can be relieved by welcoming the new overtime rule. If staff aren’t taken care of, how can they take care of constituents? Studies indicate that well-treated staff who feel valued work harder, remain with the organization longer, and deliver a higher quality of care that propels organizations towards achieving their mission.

Michael Wasser, a labor policy analyst for Jobs with Justice, notes that nonprofits that really take this challenge on with a positive approach may reap benefits in less burnout and turnover. “For many nonprofits, it’s the people who work for them that are their value add, and making sure that they can go home and recharge can have long-term sustaining benefits, because you don’t have to go out and recruit, train up, rebuild that knowledge.” Likewise, Mark Neuberger, employment attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP, says the new rules merely bring workplaces, be they nonprofit or for profit, up to date. “The law was passed at a time when men—and I mean men—went to work, and if the man wore a white shirt, they didn’t get overtime. And if they wore a blue shirt, they punched the clock and got overtime. Life today is not nearly so simple,” he said.

At the end of the day, whether your employer is nonprofit or for-profit, you and your fellow employees should be able to make ends meet, if not live comfortably. Passion and a decent wage should not be mutually exclusive.

How is your nonprofit facing the new overtime rules? Please write to us and let us know!

Tags:  nonprofit overtime 

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The New Overtime Rules Spotlight a Systemic Problem for Nonprofits

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Read the full article here.

Once the Department of Labor issued its new rules raising the threshold for overtime eligibility for exempt staff, many nonprofits faced the challenge of determining their organizational response. At the simplest level, this was just another budget challenge to be answered. But below the surface, the Department of Labor’s act forced the nonprofit community to confront the ethics and wisdom of organizational models and cultures that expect staff to work long hours and make personal sacrifices with little economic reward in return.

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What's the difference between advocacy and lobbying?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 18, 2016
What's the difference between advocacy and lobbying?  Are there clear distinctions?

Nonprofits often serve constituents who face challenges in weighing in on key issues passing through our public decision making processes.  Yet, their experiences and perspectives are critical to crafting effective policy solutions.  Nonprofit staff can serve an important role in both facilitating participation in advocacy among communities they serve as well as sharing their perspectives as agencies who see many of the issues our leaders are trying to address first hand each day.  In fact, nonprofits sharing their perspectives and engaging their clients to do the same is essential to better understanding issues and finding the best solutions.
 
Advocacy consists of the range of activities through which organizations inform, educate and compel people to action on an issue central to their mission and at all levels of society – local, state, regional and national.  Advocacy and awareness raising can take many forms: marketing campaigns, conferences, press conferences, letters to media, meetings with elected officials to introduce them to your mission, and many more.
 
Lobbying, by contrast, is a regulated set of actions in support of or in opposition to specific pieces of legislation.  One threshold for lobbying is that the communication include a “call to action” on an organization’s part, whether it is directly to the decision maker (please vote yes!) or asking someone else to talk to a decision maker (please call your senator and ask them to vote yes).  The IRS has rules defining how much of an organization’s time and money can be dedicated to lobbying and to which category of lobbying – Direct or Grassroots – both of which have their own limitations. The IRS has reporting requirements for these types of activities as well.  While there are rules that must be followed, they are easy to manage even for a small organization.  If you want to learn more now, a great resource on advoacay and lobbying by nonprofits is Alliance for Justice www.afj.org.


Becky received her B.A. in History with High Distinction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her J.D. with Distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law.

She has worked at Nebraska Appleseed since October of 2001 first as a Staff Attorney for the Economic Justice Program specializing in poverty law and then starting in 2007 as Executive Director.

During her time with Appleseed, Becky has successfully litigated cases in state and federal court and engaged in policy advocacy at the state and federal levels on issues ranging from poverty to immigration.

In addition to her work at Appleseed, Becky is the President of the Robert Van Pelt Inn of Court, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Rural Affairs, the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands and ISoft Data Systems, Inc.

She lives with her husband Jeff and their two children near Valparaiso, Nebraska.

Tags:  advocacy lobbying 

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The Rising of the States in Nonprofit Oversight

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 18, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nonprofit Quarterly Aug 16, 2016; the original article can be found here: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/08/11/rising-states-nonprofit-oversight/

In an extraordinary development, all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Trade Commission filed a federal lawsuit in May 2015 against four charities and their operators, alleging that they had defrauded more than $187 million from donors.1 While the dollar amount was staggering, the most unusual aspect of the lawsuit was the incredible level of cooperation among state nonprofit regulators. This cooperation was evident not only in the bringing of the lawsuit but also in its successful settlement less than a year later, with the defendant charities and their principal officers surrendering substantial assets, agreeing to dissolution of the charities, and acquiescing to being banned from fundraising and management of charities and charitable assets in the future.2

This development highlights the growing sophistication and cooperation of state nonprofit regulators. And it is not an isolated incident. Building on seeds planted over the past several decades, state regulators are both individually and collectively increasing their oversight of nonprofits.

This trend is fortunate for those who care about oversight of nonprofits, because it comes at a time when the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts in this area are atrophying. Even before the recent controversy related to the handling of exemption applications filed by politically active nonprofits, the IRS faced a tight budget and a growing list of responsibilities, including significant rulemaking and administrative duties related to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. These pressures, in turn, led to a growing backlog of applications for recognition of exemption, a decline in the already low audit rate for tax-exempt nonprofits, and limited new guidance for nonprofits seeking to comply with the complex federal tax rules applicable to them.3

The mess involving exemption applications filed with the IRS by Tea Party and other conservative-leaning groups worsened this situation in several ways, however. It accelerated the development of streamlined application procedures—including, but not limited to, the new Form 1023-EZ—that significantly reduce the level of IRS review for new organizations. It also gave Congress another reason to underfund the IRS, forced a wholesale change in the leadership of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, and almost certainly made employees throughout that division wary of pursuing all but the most egregious violations of federal tax law. IRS examinations of annual information returns (primarily the Form 990 series) are now at an anemic level of less than four-tenths of a percent annually. This is at a time when the number of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations has grown to over one and a half million—not including churches and other houses of worship that are not required to seek such recognition from the IRS.

So, what have state nonprofit regulators been doing during this time of decline in IRS oversight? Individually, many of them have been working hard to review and improve their laws and procedures governing nonprofits, as well as increase efforts to reach the regulated community and those who advise that community.

Individual State Initiatives

In the wake of the Enron disgrace and other scandals that rocked the for-profit sector, California enacted the Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004 to improve the governance procedures and enhance the filing requirements for charities, other nonprofits that hold funds for charitable purposes, and commercial fundraisers.4 Significant new requirements included in the act are a shortened period for registering with the attorney general (thirty days after the initial receipt of property); mandatory audited financial statements and detailed audit-committee requirements for charitable corporations with gross annual revenues of $2 million or more; mandatory board or board committee review of senior officer compensation; and numerous additional filing requirements for commercial fundraisers.

In 2013, New York enacted the Nonprofit Revitalization Act based on recommendations from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s Leadership Committee for Nonprofit Revitalization, made up of representatives from the New York nonprofit community.5 The act sought to relieve burdens on that community by reducing the number of categories for nonprofit corporations under New York law, simplifying certain formation procedures, and increasing revenue thresholds for certain auditing requirements. It also imposed enhanced corporate governance standards—including those relating to conflicts of interest, related party transactions, whistle-blowing, and financial audits—and gave the attorney general increased enforcement authority. More specifically, the act requires a written conflict of interest policy (with certain provisions for boards of all nonprofit corporations), mandates certain procedures for related party transactions, and requires a whistle-blower policy for nonprofit corporations with twenty or more employees and over $1 million in annual revenue. New York also recently announced a project to systematically review its registration and financial filing procedures for charities and fundraising professionals.6

These efforts are in addition to the increasing availability of state nonprofit filings through Internet-accessible databases, prominent announcements of investigations into alleged wrongdoing by nonprofits, and required annual reports detailing the high fundraising costs of certain nonprofits. On the latter point, examples include California’s commercial fundraisers reports, Massachusetts’s Report on Professional Solicitations for Charity, and New York’s Pennies for Charities report. In addition, state regulators have been working to enhance the other information available on their websites, providing an increasing number of plain-language guides on topics ranging from formation to fiduciary duties to dissolution. State regulators have also become regular presenters at many conferences focused on nonprofit legal issues, including meetings of the Exempt Organizations Committee of the American Bar Association, Section of Taxation; the Georgetown Law Representing and Managing Tax-Exempt Organizations conference; and the Loyola Law School Western Conference on Tax Exempt Organizations.

At least one state has taken a more innovative approach to combating what it perceives as unduly high fundraising expenses: An Oregon statute now disqualifies charities from eligibility to receive contributions that are tax deductible for purposes of Oregon’s income tax and corporate excise tax if program expenses fall below 30 percent of total annual functional expenses for the most recent three-year period. In December 2015, the Oregon Department of Justice announced the first three nonprofits to fall afoul of this rule; it remains to be seen whether any of them try to challenge their disqualification in court.7

States and localities have also become increasingly active in challenging the often very valuable property tax exemptions enjoyed by many nonprofits. These disputes have involved Princeton University; the Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette, in Attleboro, Massachusetts; dozens of hospitals; and property owned by numerous other types of nonprofits.8 With no relief in sight for many state and local government budgets, these challenges show no signs of ebbing.

At the same time, state nonprofit regulators appear to have mostly avoided or backed away from getting involved with the regulation of political activity by nonprofits. While California and New York have been particularly active in this area, those states ultimately passed new election laws expanding disclosure of political activity by all types of entities, not just nonprofits, and disclosure of funding sources for such activity.9 By doing so, they avoided any need to modify the laws specifically covering nonprofits. In New York, the attorney general actually revoked previously issued proposed regulations that would have targeted for disclosure political activity by tax-exempt organizations, on the grounds that the election law changes made the proposed regulations largely redundant. This is almost certainly a positive development, given the IRS’s experience with regulating political activity by tax-exempt organizations, as it keeps this difficult and risky task in the hands of the state agencies that administer state election laws and thus are better suited to oversee such activity. That risk is illustrated by the ongoing litigation challenging California’s attempts at requiring tax-exempt nonprofits to submit to the state attorney general the list of donors they file with the IRS. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld on its face the attorney general’s ability to demand this information, but a federal district court has barred this demand with respect to one particular, politically active nonprofit: the Koch brothers–funded Americans for Prosperity.10

Collective State Efforts

State nonprofit regulators have also been increasing their communication and coordination across state lines. While such efforts can be traced back to occasional projects under the auspices of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), they gained a more formal structure with the launch of the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) in 1979. In particular, NASCO’s annual conference, which includes both public and regulator-only sessions, provides an ongoing opportunity for state regulators to meet each other, share their experiences, and learn about new developments. NASCO has also played a critical role in helping develop the Unified Registration Statement for nonprofits engaged in charitable solicitation, and the more recent Single Portal Initiative, which seeks to develop a one-stop Internet platform for charitable solicitation registration and reporting for all states that require such filings. NASCO has also begun to show a willingness to critique IRS oversight efforts—not just behind the scenes but also publicly, as shown by the concerns it recently raised about the new IRS Form 1023-EZ.11

The Single Portal Initiative is a good example of how long it can take for such collective efforts to bear fruit. The Initiative can be traced at least as far back as 2003, when the U.S. Department of Commerce provided initial funds for the project to GuideStar, which was working in partnership with NASCO.12 Almost thirteen years later, the Initiative published an official Request for Information, seeking input on the pilot website that NAAG and NASCO plan to launch by the end of 2016.

In 2006, the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School developed the Charities Regulation and Oversight Project directed by Program Executive Director and Senior Counsel Cindy Lott.13 The project provides an opportunity for state regulators to gather together to learn about various topics of common interest, including conservation easements, fraud in the charitable sector, and future trends in state regulation of charities. It also supports in-depth research into state regulation and enforcement of the charitable sector, in cooperation with the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy.14

Finally, NAAG recently formed its Charities Committee, which joins a dozen other NAAG special committees that focus on topics ranging from agriculture to federalism to substance abuse. This move is significant, because it institutionalizes attorney general–level attention to the oversight of charities. Consisting of eight attorneys general, the committee’s description highlights the breadth of its role:

The NAAG Charities Committee mission is to assist and enable attorneys general concerning charities registration and enforcement issues and matters by providing information, communication and support; to facilitate cooperation among the various areas of attorneys general offices that handle charities registration and enforcement through open dialogue and communication; to plan, organize and conduct training and annual seminars in coordination with the National Association for State Charities Officials and its assistant attorney general members for the exchange of ideas and information on matters relevant to charities registration and enforcement; and to promote the development of effective charities registration and enforcement programs and education for the protection of citizens and increasing awareness of our duties to our citizens.15

Ramifications for Nonprofits

So, what do these developments mean for nonprofits? There are several important takeaways:

  • The IRS is not the only sheriff in town. Especially for charities, state regulators have the authority and willingness to pursue wrongdoing. Like the IRS, they face budget pressures and competing priorities, but state regulators are showing an ability to manage these pressures through both innovation at the individual state level and coordination with other states and federal agencies at the national level. Forums such as NASCO, NAAG’s Charities Committee, and the Charities Regulation and Oversight Project will only continue to enhance state regulators’ ability to do more with their limited resources and to work together.
  • For compliant nonprofits, increased state innovation and cooperation is (mostly) good news. A primary goal of the ongoing state efforts is to reduce the regulatory burdens on nonprofits that are in good faith seeking to comply with applicable state laws. For example, New York’s Nonprofit Revitalization Act amended New York’s Not-for-Profit Corporation Law to raise revenue thresholds for certain audit requirements and to simplify the classification of nonprofit corporations. The Single Portal Initiative’s stated goal is to significantly reduce the administrative burden on nonprofits and professional fundraisers that solicit charitable contributions in multiple states, by providing a single online system for required registration and reporting. At the same time, however, these initiatives often impose additional governance requirements on all or some nonprofits, as exemplified by some of the recent changes to New York law and California’s Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004.
  • For noncompliant nonprofits, there is less room to fly below the radar. As states update and revise their laws governing nonprofits and the procedures for enforcing those laws, fewer out-of-compliance nonprofits will be able to escape scrutiny. And increased communication between the states means less opportunity for out-of-compliance nonprofits to avoid oversight by simply ending activities in a given state or relocating to a different state. For example, one aspect of the Single Portal Initiative is to bring together IRS Form 990 data with state registration data, making it easier for state regulators to identify nonprofits that are operating in their jurisdictions without having properly registered or reported, as well as to spot fraudulent activity. These developments are good news for the nonprofit sector as a whole—they should reduce bad behavior, such as that highlighted in the FTC/50-State & DC Lawsuit, that damages the sector’s reputation. At the same time, however, less sophisticated and less well-resourced nonprofits that, while otherwise acting properly, have been able to ignore at least some state legal requirements with relative impunity, may no longer be able to do so—including with respect to both charitable solicitation and property tax exemption.

The bottom line is that nonprofits need to be aware that even as IRS enforcement of the federal requirements for tax-exempt organizations continues to be battered by limited resources and congressional criticism, the states have quietly laid the groundwork for more effective individual and collective oversight of nonprofits. That groundwork is starting to bear fruit, as illustrated by the recent multistate lawsuit, the renewed Single Portal Initiative, and the NAAG Charities Committee, as well as the addition of increasing governance obligations to the nonprofit laws of California and New York. Nonprofits, therefore, must be sure to treat compliance with their state legal obligations as seriously as compliance with their federal tax obligations, as well as making sure to keep track of the ongoing state law developments that could impact them in numerous ways.

Notes

  1. Federal Trade Commission, “FTC, All 50 States and D.C. Charge Four Cancer Charities With Bilking Over $187 Million from Consumers,” press release, May 19, 2015.
  2. Federal Trade Commission, “FTC, States Settle Claims Against Two Entities Claiming to Be Cancer Charities; Orders Require Entities to Be Dissolved and Ban Leader from Working for Non-Profits,” press release, March 30, 2016.
  3. Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, “‘The Better Part of Valour Is Discretion’: Should the IRS Change or Surrender Its Oversight of Tax-Exempt Organizations?,” Columbia Journal of Tax Law7, no. 1 (2016): 80–122.
  4. Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004: Summary of Key Provisions,” California Registry of Charitable Trusts, October 2004.
  5. The Nonprofit Revitalization Act’s New Annual Filing Requirements,” New York State Office of the Attorney General, accessed May 13, 2016.
  6. Charities Bureau’s Business Process Analysis,” New York State Office of the Attorney General, December 16, 2015.
  7. Disqualified Charities,” Oregon Department of Justice, accessed May 13, 2016.
  8. Evelyn Brody, “The 21st Century Fight Over Who Sets the Terms of the Charity Property Tax Exemption,” Exempt Organization Tax Review 77, no. 4 (April 2016); and Michael O’Loughlin, “Should Courts Get to Define Religion?,” Atlantic, May 3, 2016.
  9. Linda Sugin, “Politics, Disclosure, and State Law Solutions for 501(c)(4) Organizations,”Chicago-Kent Law Review 91, no. 3 (forthcoming), Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2768165.
  10. Josh Gerstein, “Koch-linked group scores legal victory over California AG,” Under the Radar (blog), Politico, April 21, 2016.
  11. Letter from Alissa Hecht Gardenswartz, president, National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO), to Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (April 30, 2014).
  12. GuideStar, “Federal Grant to GuideStar Funds Creation of National Charity Registry,” press release, October 14, 2003.
  13. Columbia Law School, “Charities Regulation and Oversight Project,” accessed May 13, 2016.
  14. Alex Daniels, “Nonprofits Proliferate but Not the Regulators, Says Report,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 5, 2015.
  15. National Association of Attorneys General, “Charities Committee,” accessed May 13, 2016.


Tags:  Nonprofit Oversight 

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A Graphic Re-visioning of Nonprofit Overhead

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 18, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nonprofit Quarterly Aug 16, 2016; the original article can be found here: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/08/16/graphic-re-visioning-nonprofit-overhead/

Most nonprofit leaders agree that we need a new way to communicate about the true costs of our programs and the vital importance of strong organizational infrastructure. But we have not yet developed a simple, consistent message when sharing our view with potential supporters and investors. We are stuck with old terms and old images.

The following series of images and descriptions is really a blog in pictures. How we visualize our understanding of nonprofit structure and programs shapes the overhead debate. It’s time to get graphic about our new ideas—to deploy fresh images to help educate the public, our funders, and ourselves.

It’s Time to Retire This Pie Chart

Overhead-myth-slide

When nonprofits are viewed this way, no matter how hard we try to think differently, we imagine important infrastructure of our organization as taking a slice out of the pie—as diminishing the “real” work of our mission.

Strategic financial functions, good governance, and the development of key funding partnerships are vital to strong organizations. We need a new way to communicate this truth.

We Need a New Image

Rather than thinking of our investment in key infrastructure as diminishing our programs, it should be seen as valuable Core Mission Support.

Core-mission-support-slide-2

Core Mission Support functions are necessary, vital, and integral.

  • Strong, strategic finance and accounting
  • Progressive human resources practices
  • Capable, responsive board governance
  • Talented and engaged development staff

Whole Organizations and True Program Costs

Each of our programs is built around, is supported by, and shares responsibility for Core Mission Support.
True-Program-costs-slide-3

All of the resources we need to accomplish our programs are the True Program Costs, which include four types of expenses:

  • Direct Expenses: Program-Specific
  • Direct Expenses: Shared by Programs
  • Core Mission Support: Finance, HR, and Board
  • Core Mission Support: Fundraising & Partners

Underfunded Programs Create a Gap at the Core

Line-item-gap-slide

Some programs are only partially funded by contributions or by earned revenue.

When a program is only partially funded, the expenses not covered include a proportionate share of the Core Mission Support. This creates a Gap in funding for the finance, human resources, governance, and fundraising infrastructure that support the entire organization.

Line-Item Funding Creates a Gap at the Core

Some funders limit their support to only the direct expenses of program.

Line-item-gap-slide

When funders support only direct expenses, they deny funding for Core Mission Support. This leaves a Gap at the center of our organization. Not only is one program affected, but the health of the entire organization is at risk.

Invest in the Core to Grow the Mission

Grow-core-slide

The growth and effectiveness of our mission work depend on having a solid core at the center of our organizations. Investing in our infrastructure is savvy, prudent, and absolutely necessary.

Go Visual With Our New Thinking

Once we have a new way of understanding and communicating about the Core Mission Support needed by our organizations, it is our job to share our thinking with others. Our funders, supporters and investors all want us to succeed. They are partners in accomplishing our mission work. But like us, they may need help reimagining the role strong infrastructure plays in amplifying program effectiveness. By providing a simple visual guide, we can help transform the way we talk about, picture, and ultimately fund the Core Mission Support that is at the center of all great nonprofits.

Tags:  Nonprofit Overhead 

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Five Tips for Turning Advocates into Volunteers

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 6, 2016

 Five Tips for Turning Advocates into Volunteers - Nonprofit Hub

Advocates are a vital piece of any nonprofit’s support system. Intangible encouragement from advocates matters just as much as any monetary donation. Advocates aren’t just voices of support, though; they’re also a great resource when you’re looking to increase your nonprofit’s volunteer base. A study performed by VolunteerMatch and Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund showed that 67 percent of volunteers also give money to the organizations where they invest their time. On average, those volunteers end up spending 10 times more than other donors.

That being said, it can be tough to figure out the first step for turning advocates into volunteers. We’ve come up with a handful of tips for helping your supporters take the first plunge into volunteerism.

Recognize Supporters

Be sure to take the time to make your advocates feel recognized. Acknowledge your supporters by giving them a shout-out in newsletters, social media and direct mailings. Doing so helps boost communication with your advocates and encourage continued engagement. But don’t stop there—use those channels to remind people that volunteering, not just donating, is another great way to give back to your cause.

Go Digital

Going digital offers countless chances for creative interaction with younger generations. It gives you the chance to engage your advocates on their terms by talking about their passions and stories. Social media and the web are making it easier than ever to participate in conversations with your supporters. These are a few tips to ensure success for your digital communication with advocates:

  • Make sure your website is accessible on smartphones. 60 percent of digital media consumption occurs on mobile devices.
  • Think big, think groups. Social media can offer advocates leverage to encourage their peers to join them in volunteering.
  • Pay attention. Being responsive to the concerns and feedback of your supporters shows that you care. Giving back to advocates will encourage them to do the same for your organization.

Track Advocacy Data

Kickoff the process of turning your advocates into volunteers by exploring what makes them interested in your organization. Find new ways to track those interests in your data collection software. With that knowledge, you can offer opportunities that are in line with the priorities of your advocates. Once they’ve started volunteering, you can also track your advocates’ engagement by adding data sections for things like hours and interaction.

Don’t Be Shy

Go ahead and tell your advocates that you need volunteers! Communicating your needs is most effective when you speak to the individuals that care for your nonprofit. They’re natural supporters of your cause, which means that they’ll be receptive to your organization’s requests. Before publicizing those requests, make sure you’ve developed a clear goal for what you need from your supporters. Having a plan of action will help shape the way that you encourage your advocates to take action.

The more specific your requests are, the better. For example, breaking down volunteer opportunities for advocates into smaller, more definite time slots helps to alleviate the pressure of committing to volunteer. Specificity in your approach ensures that you aren’t laying too heavy of a burden onto your supporters.

Host a Shindig

Nonprofit events are a great platform to get your advocates to start contributing their resources. It’s a great way for supporters to continue supporting in a different way. Events not only offer up an opportunity to volunteer, but they also give your advocates something to talk about. In a group setting, your nonprofit advocates will be able to engage with others that are passionate about the same cause. With their new experiences, they’ll be able to share fresh stories with their friends and colleagues, A.K.A. new potential advocates and volunteers for your nonprofit. It’s a win-win.

____________________________

The actions of advocates matter greatly to any nonprofit. Their passion supports your cause in an important way. By encouraging their participation in volunteer opportunities, your organization can achieve new potential and greater success.

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REPORT: FOCUS ON LOW OVERHEAD HURTS NONPROFITS

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 6, 2016

Report: Focus on Low Overhead Hurts Nonprofits: Associations Now

New research from the Bridgespan Group highlights how requirements that nonprofits have low overhead could be making it harder for them to effectively fulfill their missions.

When it comes to nonprofits, mission is paramount. But overhead is still a necessary part of the equation, and charitable groups are often encouraged to keep their spending very low.

A new study from the Bridgespan Group, however, has a fresh take on the issue: Nonprofits shouldn’t have to starve their infrastructure spending in the name of keeping overhead low. Instead, the study argues, foundations should “pay what it takes” to build out that infrastructure.

The argument already has some fans among major philanthropic firms.

“All of us in the nonprofit ecosystem are party to a charade with terrible consequences—what we might call the ‘overhead fiction,'” noted Ford Foundation President Darren Walker in comments to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “The data included in this article along with comparable data for our grantees convinced us that we had to make a change.”

Walker’s group doubled its investment in overhead as part of its most recent funding round, based on the study’s research. What’s in the study that inspired such a dramatic change? Well, here are a few of the key points:

Indirect costs are higher than budgeted. The study, which analyzed 20 high-performing nonprofits in a variety of sectors, found that indirect costs (the study’s more inclusive term for “overhead”) made up an average of 40 percent of the organization’s total costs—in some cases, far beyond the 15 percent overhead rate allotted by most foundations.

Different types of nonprofits have different needs. A research lab and a global NGO with a wide network of affiliates tend not to have a lot in common, other than the fact that they’re both in the nonprofit space. Because these organizations are so different, they often have different spending needs, with network and field management the most important cost for the NGO, and equipment the biggest cost for the research lab. By putting a firm cap on indirect spending by each organization, it can limit how well these organizations conduct their respective missions. The study showed that one of the research organizations analyzed had indirect costs that teetered near 89 percent, with physical costs the biggest point of pressure.

The focus on low overhead hurts charitable efforts. One group cited by the study, the head of a girls’ mentoring organization, said that the philosophical focus on keeping overhead low has led to disinterest in the real picture by foundations. “They don’t want to listen,” the CEO said. “So we have to have two budgets: one that has the real numbers, and another that shows the funders what they want to see. If you don’t give them what they want, they won’t give you any money.”

By making the point in the study, Bridgespan hopes to encourage a rethinking of how overhead is perceived by foundations and other donors.

“If nonprofits would commit to understanding their true cost of operations and if funders would shift to paying grantees what it takes to get the job done, the starvation cycle would end,” Bridgespan Manager Michael Etzel, a study coauthor, said in a news release. “The grantmaking conversation would shift from an emphasis on what it takes to fund a program to what it takes to build strong organizations and achieve impact.”

The full study can be read on the Stanford Social Innovation Reviewwebsite.


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Celebrate Nonprofits!

Posted By Nonprofit Association of the Midlands, Monday, March 17, 2014

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Tags:  advocacy  featured member 

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