Monday, December 20, 2010

How Will the New Tax Law Affect Your Nonprofit, Your Employees, and the People You Serve?

Yesterday Congress passed the $857 billion tax package negotiated by President Obama and congressional Republicans. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation today.

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act (H.R. 4853) has numerous components of interest and concern to nonprofits – as employers and as mission-based organizations involved in local communities. This list presents portions of interest to most nonprofits, nonprofit employees, and the people they serve:
  • Tax Rates Maintained: All of the individual tax rates put in effect in 2001 and 2003 are maintained through 2012, including those for upper-income tax brackets. Most immediately, this means that nonprofit and other employers will not have to adjust employee withholdings for income taxes.
  • Individual Payroll Taxes Reduced: Employees receive a two percent reduction in the Social Security tax they pay. For 2011, nonprofit and other employers will need to reduce the individual's share of payroll withholding from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. To illustrate what this change means, an individual earning $50,000 will see $1,000 in tax savings.
  • Estate Tax: The bill restores and reduces the federal estate tax at a rate of 35 percent and increases the exemption level to $5 million, two changes that many fear will eliminate previous incentives for the wealthy to give.
  • Charitable Giving Incentives: The IRA rollover and other expired charitable giving incentives (promoting donations of food, land, computers, and books) are restored for the remainder of 2010 and through the end of 2011, which should help promote giving.
  • Unemployment Benefits: The legislation extends the enhanced program of 99-weeks of unemployment benefits through 2011. This allowance may prevent additional strain that would have hit many nonprofits that provide services to those with no income.
  • Alternative Minimum Tax: Middle-income taxpayers will not be subject to the alternative minimum tax in 2010 and 2011 because the bill renews a "patch" that limits the application of the AMT to approximately four million upper-income individuals. Without this patch, many taxpayers would have seen an automatic increase in their tax rates.
The following link will take readers to a 12-page summary that provides greater detail about the bill, including provisions that might be of interest to particular nonprofits (e.g., those providing child care, adoption assistance, certain education): Summary of the Reid-McConnell Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010.
Also, the IRS just released instructions to help employers implement the 2011 cut in payroll taxes, along with new income-tax withholding tables that employers will use during 2011. See Notice 1036.
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How to Change the World…

…Whatever the size of your wallet. These ideas, with budgets from $20 to $20,000, can help better the lives of others—and your own.

Got any plans for next week? Perhaps you could begin changing the world.

Yes, household budgets remain tight. But you don't have to be a lottery winner to make a difference in your community or halfway around the globe. People who are winding down first or primary careers and looking for new directions are discovering that for the cost of a weekend getaway, they can help change the world. Or start to.

Bob and Jo Link, for instance, retirees in Portland, Ore., serve on a nonprofit board that awards scholarships in Belize. Mr. Link, age 69, also troubleshoots computer problems for African refugees. This after the couple spent two years in the Peace Corps, helped with Hurricane Katrina cleanup, assembled computers for schools in Guatemala and worked with deaf orphans in Peru.

The cost to them? A few plane tickets, some scholarship donations and sweat equity.

"When you do this kind of stuff, you get back more than you really expect," Mr. Link says. "A lot of people wouldn't, or couldn't, put two years into the Peace Corps, but they could afford to spend a week in Peru."

We decided to look for ways that people, whatever the size of their savings, can change the lives of others—and their own. So go ahead: Pick one of the following budgets and write it on your calendar: "CTW."

$100 and Under

SERVICE PROGRAMS: In some cases, you actually can get paid while you're helping to make a difference.

The Links, for instance, earned $300 apiece each month in the Peace Corps, where about 7% of the organization's volunteers last year were age 50-plus. Closer to home, AmeriCorps, one of the largest national-service programs, is aiming for 10% of its 85,000 participants to be at least 55 years old—up from 4% in fiscal 2009.

AmeriCorps volunteers receive federal stipends averaging $11,800 for a commitment of 10 months to a year. They can also receive education grants of as much as $5,350, which, starting this year, they can transfer to their grandchildren, says Patrick Corvington, chief executive of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that runs AmeriCorps. Work varies from part-time service in a volunteer's own community to full-time opportunities across the country. Options include helping to rebuild communities on the Gulf Coast and installing solar-electric systems in low-income California neighborhoods.

BECOME A LENDER: For what you spend today on lunch, "microfinance" allows you to play a big role in jump-starting modest entrepreneurial undertakings around the world—whether it's boosting inventory at a produce stand in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, or providing additional nets to fishermen in Cambodia.

f you're interested in lending to an individual entrepreneur overseas, lets you choose the borrower on its website. If the loans are paid back, you can fund another loan, donate the proceeds to Kiva or get your money back., where you can pick a classroom project to fund with as little as $1, sifts proposals by cost, school poverty level and subject. Requests might include $140 for dry-erase markers or $2,000 for camcorders and laptops for budding filmmakers.

Heifer International, through which $20 buys a flock of chickens or $5,000 delivers an "ark" of animals to a family or village in Asia or Africa, finds that many people age 50-plus seek out the cause around holidays. Then, as they learn more about it, many wind up joining study tours to the communities raising the animals, coordinating fund-raising efforts in the U.S., or working at several Heifer learning centers, says Steve Stirling, executive vice president for marketing in Little Rock, Ark.

$300 to $4,000

GIVING CIRCLES: One way to get more bang for your charity buck is to join a so-called giving circle, a group with a common interest that pools its resources and collectively decides where to put its combined money to work.

In the 1960s, Sally Bookman studied social anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Now she leads a Dining for Women chapter with two dozen women, many of them retirees, attending monthly dinners in Santa Cruz, Calif. At each meeting, they eat a potluck dinner and chip in about $30 each to support women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

The national Dining for Women group, based in Greenville, S.C., picks the cause du jour and sends educational materials to local chapters. But the members' life experience gives the gatherings their flavor, says Ms. Bookman, 67. "At one meeting we were learning about women in a remote village in the jungle in Peru, and one of our members had been to that village for three days with her husband," she says.

If you join a giving circle, you can choose simply to write checks, or take a more active role researching where the circle's money might have the most impact.

"VOLUNTOURISM": Trips on which people do volunteer work, typically overseas, have exploded in number and type in recent years.

How do you choose among the estimated 10,000 trips out there? Ask how the work you do will fit into the overall scope of the on-the-ground project, says Alexia Nestora, founder of, an industry blog. If you're working with children, ask how what you do will build on what the previous volunteer did. (You don't want to be the 20th volunteer to teach them to sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" in English, for example.) Also make sure the operator provides emergency medical insurance and has an employee living in the country who speaks English in case of political upheaval or a natural disaster.

Mark Sanger, a 58-year-old retired transportation engineer in La Grande, Ore., has taken several weeklong trips with Globe Aware, a Dallas nonprofit that coordinates volunteer travel work. In a tiny Costa Rican village, his crew slept in A-frame cabins and helped villagers build housing in hopes of drawing national-park tourists and generating additional income. He also spent time eating meals in local families' homes, where you could "see how they interact with their kids, what pictures they have on their walls." He enjoyed his next trip even more, teaching English to children in Cambodia.

"It was like a whole other world opened up to me," he says. "There's a sense of adventure…without your life in danger every day. It's a nice balance of doing something interesting, exciting, different and incredibly rewarding."

Your room, board and airfare in some cases are tax-deductible if you travel with a nonprofit. Vincent Mirrione, 69, of Newman, Calif., has taken seven trips with Cross-Cultural Solutions, a nonprofit operator in New Rochelle, N.Y., for six to eight weeks at a time. His work at a Guatemala soup kitchen and orphanage, Russian senior centers and a project that Mother Teresa started in India have wound up costing about $300 a week after the tax break, he says.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Retraining, as a classroom teacher, for instance, can jump-start a second career as well as benefit others.

"Green," of course, is hot. Clover Park Technical College, Lakewood, Wash., offers a number of environmental-sustainability programs, which include classroom study and hands-on field work. The programs last 12 weeks to two years, depending on an individual's goals.

Pam Kirchhofer, 49, enrolled there in a 15-month sustainable-building program after she was laid off as a personal-finance counselor. The attraction: "You're helping people save money by conserving energy and resources, and…you're being a good steward of the Earth," she says. The tough part: "I haven't had a math class in 28 years, and we just did an energy audit of this woman's house using algebraic equations."

$5,000 to $10,000

JOIN A BOARD: A director on a board? You? Why not?

"Almost half of all nonprofit board seats never get filled. Nonprofits would love to have more qualified candidates, but they don't know how to tap into really talented people in the community," says David Simms, a partner with Bridgespan Group in Boston, which advises nonprofits. (One new resource for a board-seat search: The websites where nonprofits place want-ads for volunteers also are starting to post vacant board seats.)

Bonnie R. Harrison, 61, a retired Corning Inc. executive, became involved with Southern Tier Hospice in Corning, N.Y., after serving as her father's caregiver while he was also receiving hospice services. To join the board, Ms. Harrison asked her father's hospice nurse to write a recommendation. Shortly after Ms. Harrison retired last year, the hospice board's chairwoman stepped down, and Ms. Harrison was asked to take her place.

"The challenge of working along with the board, the staff and different organizations has been a great help in making the transition away from a high-pressured job," she says.

BECOME A BENEFACTOR: So, you like the idea of having a charitable vehicle to help others, but you aren't Bill Gates. Consider a donor-advised fund, a good tool for people who want to give away amounts starting at about $5,000 a year.

Such funds can be set up through big financial-service companies, like Fidelity Investments, as well as university, religious and community foundations. The fund will invest your assets and make grants based on your guidance. Typically, you become eligible for an immediate tax deduction.

"It might be a little more than you can handle doing on your own, yet you don't want to set up the superstructure of a foundation," says John Gomperts, the recently named director of AmeriCorps. "You might go to a community foundation and say, 'I want to give this money away, and I care about the humane care of animals, so please give me some suggestions and administer this for me.' "

$20,000 and Up

START A NONPROFIT: You have a cause you're passionate about, and nobody seems to be tackling it. So you dream of starting a nonprofit to that end. Expect to spend at least $10,000 to $20,000 on start-up costs, including the legal expenses involved in creating an organization and asking the government to grant you a tax exemption, called 501(c)3 status.

First question: Are you sure there are no similar efforts? The U.S. has about 1.5 million nonprofits, and "many of them are doing phenomenal work," says Mr. Simms in Boston.

If your idea truly is unique, try to find a community foundation to "incubate your effort so that you can worry about the service you want to provide" instead of setting up the business end, says Christopher Stone, faculty director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Elaine Santore is the 59-year-old co-founder of Umbrella of the Capital District, a Schenectady, N.Y., organization that helps older adults, in part by matching them with retirees-turned-handymen. She and her partner jump-started the program before receiving their not-for-profit status. "I would clean houses if need be, and he would mow yards," she says. "It's good to be hands-on at first so you know what it's like."

ENDOW A SCHOLARSHIP: What if you win the lottery, or your stock options go through the roof? The sky's the limit: You could fund scientists trying to cure cancer, build a new stage for your local symphony, or even start your own university and town, as did Domino's Pizza founder and philanthropist Tom Monaghan.

One of the more popular big-ticket items, though, is creating your own college scholarship. With $1 million, you could set up an endowment that should last for decades, says Becky Sharpe, president of International Scholarship & Tuition Services Inc., Nashville, Tenn., which administers privately and publicly funded scholarships.

Joe Scarlett, retired chairman and chief executive of Tractor Supply Co., Brentwood, Tenn., started a family foundation in 2005 with $2.5 million to provide college scholarships to business students from middle Tennessee, and he hired Ms. Sharpe's company to run the award program.

"We generate way too few business leaders in our country, so we wanted to focus our scholarship money on business," says Mr. Scarlett, 67. The foundation now has a balance of approximately $24 million, thanks to additional gifts from the Scarletts and growth in its value, and is expanding its efforts, supporting students in high schools and even preschools.

Original Article by Kelly Greene from

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SBA, Microsoft create technology guide, online course

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced a new technology resource is available for small business owners.

The SBA and Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. have teamed up to create "Business Technology Simplified," a free guidebook that offers tips on how to use technology and innovation to make businesses work more efficiently, the SBA said in a news release.
The guidebook includes material on simplifying work tasks, do-it-yourself marketing, time management, and finding and cultivating customers.

"Business Technology Simplified" is available in a printed format at the SBA Syracuse district office. Computer users can also access the guidebook online at the Microsoft website.
It's also available as a free distance-learning course, according to the SBA.

The course is available at

Monday, December 13, 2010

Call for Participants The Business of Art

The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and Southern Tier Economic Growth have issued a Call for Participants for a series of art-related business workshops to be held in 2011. The Business of Art will train visual artists and fine craftspeople to think of themselves as businesspeople, and to learn and apply business-related skills to enhance their careers.

Funded in part by a grant from The Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, ten workshops will be held at Elmira-based arts and cultural venues between February and June 2011 and will culminate in an exhibition of participants' art and craft in the fall

The workshops will be facilitated by Elmira artist Allen C. (Denny) Smith, and will feature expert presenters on various art-specific small business topics, including: goal setting and documentation; portfolio basics and presentation packages; basic business plans and business resources; budgeting, financial management and taxes; legal and insurance issues; real estate and architectural considerations; human resources; business models; sales, marketing and new media; and community resources.

Program participants will be chosen through a jury process, conducted by The ARTS and Mr. Smith. There is no cost to submit an application. Applicants should submit the following to by January 3, 2011:

  • Full contact information, including name, mailing address, email address, telephone and website URL, in the body of the email
  • Two (2) digital images of current work (made within the past year), in JPEG format, resolved at 72 dpi and sized no larger than 600 x 800 pixels
  • Current resume, including exhibition record, in PDF format
  • Current artist statement, in PDF format
  • Statement of intent for participating in the program (in the body of the email or in PDF format), answering the following questions:
    1. Why do you want to participate in these workshops?
    2. How do you think these workshops will assist you as a working artist/craftsperson?
    3. Do you intend to participate in all ten (10) workshops? If not, which workshops do you wish to attend?

Applications will be reviewed during the week of January 3 and selected participants will be notified as quickly as possible.

Accepted participants who commit to attending all ten workshops will be asked to pay a nominal fee of $50.00 (fee will be waived in cases of economic hardship). Accepted participants who do not wish to attend all ten workshops will pay fees of $10.00 per workshop. All fees will be due in full before the workshop series begins.

Only those who complete the full workshop series will be eligible to show their work in the culminating exhibition.

Full program information is available for download from The ARTS' website or by emailing

Questions about the program should be directed to Ginnie Lupi at The ARTS, at 607-962-5871 x225 or

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How to Donate like a Pro

In a Time of Tighter Budgets—For Benefactors and Charities Alike—It's More Important Than Ever to Make Your Gifts Count. Here's How

Investors demand a good return from their assets. Now donors are increasingly seeking the same for their charitable dollars.

Many philanthropists, large and small, are anxious about writing checks—and many endowments have yet to recover fully from the bruising they took during the financial crisis. Finding the worthiest, most-efficient organizations to maximize the impact of your donations couldn't be more pressing.

Yet identifying the best charity can be as difficult as picking a good money manager, with philanthropists left to navigate a world of tax forms, ratings systems and often misleading jargon. It's easy just to write a check and hope for the best—but you stand the risk of getting a poor return on your charitable investments.

Making matters more complicated: Many long-cherished tax breaks are coming under fire. Next year could bring the return of limits on itemized deductions, including those for donations, if Congress doesn't extend the Bush-era tax cuts for couples earning more than $250,000 ($200,000 for individuals). Even if Congress extends the cuts for all, the idea of cutting back charitable tax breaks is still in play: President Obama's deficit commission this week proposed limiting the deductions for large gifts to amounts above 2% of adjusted gross income.

All this is making donors rethink their giving strategies, says Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. "They want to make sure now more than ever that they're using their money wisely."

Overall giving is down sharply from its recent highs. Among high-net-worth households—who account for the bulk of individual charitable dollars—average giving dropped 34.9% to $54,016 in 2009, from $83,034 in 2007, according to a survey conducted by the center and sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The downward trend appears to be continuing. One in five people say they are giving to fewer organizations than in the past, according to a November poll from Harris Interactive. A third are giving in smaller amounts this year than last. And the percentage of people not giving at all has doubled to 12% in 2010 from last year.

There are a host of charity-rating agencies to consult, but to get a more-accurate picture, consider volunteering your time before giving money. Do your own research: Talk to beneficiaries, visit work sites and study a group's finances yourself to judge the effectiveness of its programs.

That's what Denise Winston did. The former business banker "always just wrote a check," she says. But after leaving her job and starting her own financial-education business in 2009, the Bakersfield, Calif., resident became more frustrated over how little of her donations were going to beneficiaries. She decided she would spend time volunteering with different organizations before giving, partly to get a better sense of her time and money's impact.

"I'm closer to the person receiving support," she says. "Anyone can write a check. But I like to give things you can't buy."

Here's how to navigate the system and make sure the dollars you donate are making the biggest impact possible.

Article continued at Wall Street, includes ways of gauging donor's impact and red flags that donors should watch out for.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Southern Tier Nonprofit Executive Directors Group Meeting December 9th

Please join us!

STNED 2010 December Meeting and Holiday Social Event at
Three Birds Restaurant

Thursday, DECEMBER 9, 2010

Please join Executive Directors and Senior Management Professionals at the Southern Tier Nonprofit Executive Directors Group (STNED) 2010 meeting and holiday social event. The event will be held on December 9th at Three Birds Restaurant located at 73 E. Market Street, Corning, NY from 5pm-7pm.

The purpose of this event is to have an enjoyable evening of networking, food, refreshments and a cash bar.

This event will be free of charge for the first participant from a nonprofit organization and $10 for each additional person from that organization.

Funding for this event is being provided by The Institute for Human Services, Inc., The Triangle Fund, The Community Foundation of Elmira, Corning and the Finger Lakes, and Pro Action of Steuben and Yates, Inc.

If you have any questions concerning STNED, please do not hesitate to contact us at or go to and click on STNED.

We look forward to seeing you on December 9th!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Charities Seeing Slight Recovery in Giving, But Not Enough to Keep Up with Demand or Budget Cuts

Nonprofit organizations have seen a slight turnaround in giving so far this year that mirrors the slow economic recovery, a new survey from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) finds. But the small rebound hasn't been enough to help many nonprofits that are grappling with staff and service cuts even as demand for their services has increased.

The national survey showed that 36 percent of charities reported an increase in donations in the first nine months of 2010, compared with only 23 percent in the same period of 2009.

Thirty-seven percent of charities reported a decrease in giving, a dramatic change from 2009's 51 percent. Among those experiencing a decline in giving, the main reason cited was fewer individual donations and smaller amounts. Lower amounts received from foundations and corporations also contributed to the overall lower giving amounts at these charities. Giving remained unchanged at 26 percent of nonprofits in 2010 vs. 25 percent in 2009.

"We are beginning to see some positive signs, but despite that giving still has a long way to go to return to the levels it was at three or four years ago," said Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which spearheaded the collaboration. "One-fifth of charities in the survey said their budgets for 2011 will be lower than for 2010, forcing many of them to look at cuts in services, salaries and staff."

Among the 20 percent of nonprofits anticipating reduced budgets next year, 66 percent say they will have to reduce programs, services or operating hours, 59 percent expect to cut or freeze staff salaries or benefits, and 49 percent are planning layoffs or hiring freezes.

"The Nonprofit Fundraising Survey: November 2010" is the first product of a collaboration involving six organizations that serve the nonprofit sector: the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Blackbaud, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the Foundation Center, GuideStar USA Inc., and the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics.

"For the first time in two years, there is cause for cautious optimism about the nonprofit sector in this economy," said Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of GuideStar. "Nonetheless, in this latest study, as in all prior years, nonprofits also are reporting increased demand for their services. Even as giving increases, philanthropic dollars fall short of the amounts needed to help people in our country and abroad."

Demand for services increased at 78 percent of human service nonprofits and 68 percent of charities overall in 2010. Charities will be hard-pressed in 2011 to secure funding for growing needs, especially as individual and foundation donors are cautious about boosting support and other sources of funding — including government contracts for services — are cut.

"Younger, less well-established nonprofits have been especially hard hit by the recession," noted Lawrence T. McGill, vice president for research at the Foundation Center. "Many foundations, seeking to maximize more limited resources, have steered their grantmaking toward organizations they believe have the best chance to weather the economic storm."

Other Key NRC Survey Findings:

  • In four of eight subsectors, the share of organizations reporting an increase in contributions was about the same as the share reporting a decrease. The four with nearly equal percentages of organizations with giving up and giving down are: arts, education, environment/animals, and human services.
  • International organizations were the most likely to report an increase in contributions, reflecting donations made for disaster relief.
  • In three subsectors — health, public-society benefit, and religion — a larger share of the organizations reported declines than reported increases.
  • The larger an organization's annual expenditures, the more likely it reported an increase in charitable receipts in the first nine months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009.
  • Most organizations were guardedly optimistic about 2011. Forty-seven percent plan budget increases, 33 percent expect to maintain their current level of expenditures, and 20 percent anticipate a lower budget for 2011.
The Collaborative and Survey Methodology

By working together, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative can reduce the number of surveys nonprofits are asked to complete, collect information more efficiently, and analyze it in more useful ways to create the benchmarks and trends that nonprofits and grant makers use to guide their work. Each partner has at least a decade of direct experience collecting information from nonprofits on charitable receipts, fundraising practices, and/or grantmaking activities. Survey participants will form a panel over time, allowing for trend comparisons among the same organizations. This approach provides more useful benchmarking information than repeated cross-sectional studies.

The first NRC survey, based on questions that GuideStar used for its annual economic surveys, was fielded between October 19 and November 3, 2010. It received 2,513 responses. More than 2,350 charities completed the questions, as did 163 foundations. The analysis for grant makers includes responses from charities that make grants but that are not foundations. These include United Ways, Jewish federations, congregations, and a number of other types of organizations. There were responses from 386 grant makers.

The respondents form a convenience sample. There is no margin of error or measure of statistical significance using this sampling technique, as it is not a random sample of the population studied. However, given the long-running nature of GuideStar's economic surveys and the strong relationship between findings in those studies in prior years and actual results once tax data about charitable giving are available, the method employed here is a useful barometer of what charities experience and what total giving will look like. In the future, the NRC surveys are expected to occur in early winter, spring, and fall every year.

"The Nonprofit Fundraising Survey: November 2010" (PDF), which includes responses broken down by types of nonprofits and budget size, can be downloaded at no charge from the Gain Knowledge area of the Foundation Center's web site.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Arts as an International Force for Change

Twenty-five Chinese Ministry of Culture executives just left my office. It was exciting to learn about Chinese cultural investment in projects -- from massive contemporary visual art colonies in Beijing and Shanghai to an exploding phenomenon of cultural festivals in cities and villages throughout their colossal country. They in turn were eager to learn how the arts industry is structured and supported in the United States. As they were leaving my office, 35 French, Belgian and Spanish business leaders arrived with the cultural officer from the French Embassy. They, too, were excited to learn how the arts industry is supported in the United States.

Last month, I was brought in to speak to arts groups and government and business leaders in Amsterdam; other Americans for the Arts staff members went or will go to Brussels, London, Korea, and Germany just this fall. Each of these countries wants to learn how the arts industry in America is supported and how private sector giving to the arts works. They are especially curious about how business donations "flow" into the bank accounts of U.S. arts organizations, and to capture the compelling arguments that motivate elected officials to "shower" the arts with public dollars and supportive policymaking in America.

What is going on? World governments are increasingly excited about the economic power of the arts and the value of cultural exchange in a changing world. Because the prodigious levels of government support in Europe and Asia are diminishing, they want to better understand our American advocacy techniques. And as they observe the sea of corporate logos on the backs of most U.S. performing arts programs, they want to know America's secret to eliciting substantial business support for the arts.

However, the leaders from these other countries are often quite disappointed when I tell them that the result of our mightiest, most sophisticated advocacy efforts generates just 9 percent of the total income for U.S. nonprofit arts organizations. Equally disappointing is that private sector support in America is only 31 percent, mostly from individuals. Business support -- despite all the logos and brand recognition -- is only about 5 percent. Yet these foreign leaders and delegations keep coming because they see the breadth of creative and innovative arts organization we have here. They see the freedom of ideas, the variety and the sheer pluck and entrepreneurial spirit of America's arts community.

In September 2009, at the Sundance Preserve, Robert Redford and I convened our fourth National Arts Policy Roundtable for CEOs, elected officials and opinion leaders to discuss how the arts strengthen 21st century global communities by helping create better understanding and stronger relationships between the U.S. and the world .

Thinking about this 21st century global marketplace, four key cultural imperatives jumped out:

  1. The arts are a global economic force.
  2. The arts are an aggressive part of today's international competitive marketplace.
  3. Improved cultural understanding is essential in international dialogue.
  4. The arts make dramatic contributions to our national security.

The report complements what has been a recent growth of dialogue and interest in making a case for the strength of the arts in U.S. diplomacy and with key decision-makers. Margaret (Peggy) Ayers at the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation has pioneered groundbreaking research on our private sector's role in supporting U.S. cultural exchange. Former Congressman John Brademas, with his Brademas Center for the Study of Congress' Project on Cultural Diplomacy at NYU, is spearheading an effort to reinvigorate Congress' role in supporting the arts in our cultural diplomacy efforts.

From the Huffington Post. Read more here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nonprofits Have Big Role in State

As Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo and legislators shape their plans for New York next year, they should pay close attention to the state's vibrant not-for-profit sector, as it is the standard-bearer for innovation and service to the state and its people. The 80,000 not-for-profit organizations in the state play crucial roles: leading efforts to prevent or cure disease, alleviate poverty, advance education, address environmental and social concerns, and ennoble through culture.

New York's robust charitable sector, including such powerhouses as Columbia University, Sloan-Kettering, the Red Cross, the Ford Foundation and Lincoln Center, as well as community-based organizations, such as local drug-prevention programs, small community theaters and religion-based charities, help fuel the state's economy, generating over $150 billion in revenue annually and employing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Second in size only to the government as an employer in the city, the nonprofit sector provides more jobs than the financial and insurance industries combined.

Working together, state government and nonprofits can help maintain our state's primacy as innovator, incubator and magnet for investment. Here's how.

* Adjust taxes to encourage more giving. For example, reward taxpayers for increases in year-over-year charitable giving and incentivize artists to donate their work to charity auctions in support of good causes.

* Promote regulatory, administrative and legislative reforms that make it easier to start and operate nonprofits, especially in high-tech, medical research and green industries.

* Encourage and facilitate partnering among nonprofits and between them and for-profit businesses. For instance, provide a clearinghouse so that environmental groups can pair up with green-tech businesses or so arts-in-education organizations can collaborate with founders of charter schools.

* Incentivize nonprofits to hire recent college graduates to fill needed roles while they learn important lessons about professional development and social responsibility.

* Rearrange state budgets with existing charitable resources in mind. For example, recalibrate school aid and Medicaid expenditures so that public spending on students, the elderly and the disabled complements and stimulates private nonprofit resources and support.

* Safeguard against encroachments on sales- or property-tax -exemptions, which would hurt already-stretched hospitals, elder-care facilities and YMCAs.

* Promote visibility for worthy nonprofits by providing voluntary check-offs on state tax forms.

* Include nonprofit destinations in the state's promotion of tourism and convention activity.

* Make nonprofits part of New York's federal lobbying strategy.

The public's trust in state government may be at a low ebb, but public support for nonprofits endures. By recommitting himself to the well-being of our valuable nonprofit institutions, Mr. Cuomo can take important steps toward reclaiming the state's role as a national beacon and perpetuate its highest ideals.

by Lesley Freidman Rosenthal, for original article click here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nonprofit Knowledge Matters: Advocacy as a Core Capacity

When we think of "capacity building," we most often think of training staff and board members - perhaps to be more effective fundraisers or to leverage technology to improve program delivery.

How often do we think of advocacy as a core capacity?

A nonprofit needs a clear voice that rises above the din to be effective at accomplishing its mission. Nonprofits need the capacity to communicate:
  • how their work results in positive change
  • why donors should support them, and
  • who is helped by their work.
Often, nonprofits also need to communicate what action they hope their stakeholders will take in support of the nonprofit’s mission. These are examples of how nonprofits engage in advocacy!

Advocacy requires communications capacity: Does the nonprofit have the right technology to update its website and effortlessly send out attractive email blasts? Can the nonprofit maintain and easily update a database so that its communications are reaching the right audiences? Does the nonprofit employ staff or engage volunteers who are trained in media relations so that when the local radio calls and asks for a comment on a breaking story the nonprofit is prepared?
Advocacy may also require courage. How so? There are still many who do not think that advocacy is an appropriate role for nonprofits. The National Council is working every day to change that perception, and thankfully, more and more nonprofits, as well as those that support them, are aware that advocacy is a core capacity for any nonprofit.

The Capacity Building Hub on the National Council's website features resources that address building capacity for advocacy, including links to reports illustrating why advocacy is one of the best investments that a foundation can make in a nonprofit.
Read a recent study by the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy that found that of the 20 nonprofits studied, "These nonprofits leveraged foundation grants that generated a $150 return for every dollar invested in their policy engagement efforts."

Measuring the impact of advocacy activities can be difficult.
We like the approach taken by the Innovation Network in its Practical Guide to Advocacy Evaluation that urges nonprofits not to measure the hoped-for-end-result of an advocacy effort such as ending hunger in our state (that could take decades to attain) but rather to focus on the contribution the nonprofit is making to the goal.
Nonprofits that shine a light on those contributions, even incremental ones, such as bringing local nonprofits to the same table with government officials, will capitalize on the momentum they create, and provide their stakeholders with a concrete example of the positive effects of advocacy in a community.

Does someone you know still think that nonprofits can't be advocates? Or that nonprofits, "can't lobby?"

Help them understand why advocacy is legal, needed, and easy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NYSCA: Actors Fund Affordable Housing Survey

As a member of the professional performing arts and entertainment community, have you struggled to find affordable housing?

If so, the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC) wants to hear from you.

NYSCA is working with AFHDC in their efforts to learn about the housing needs of the performing arts and entertainment community in the New York/New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania regions.

From now until December 6th, you can participate in a 10-minute survey to help them determine the unique affordable housing needs of entertainment professionals.

Your opinion is vital as your responses will assist AFHDC in determining interest, need, design, amenities and more! Your input, and the input of your friends, will move this project forward!

Take the survey now at

If you have questions or need more information, contact The Actors Fund Survey Team at 212.221.7300 ext 107.

For more on The Actors Fund, please visit

Spread the word and help us help AFHDC!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Keeping Your Board Engaged

From As 2010 winds down, I wanted to answer a question that came up several times in response to my GuideStar Newsletter articles this year:

How do I keep my board engaged? Particularly if it's a statewide or national board?
This is a question I get all the time. Everyone wants their board to be engaged, but ...

What do you really mean when you say an "engaged board?" Do you want your board members to be just paying attention? Or do you want something more?

How's this for a definition: "Engagement is inspiring passion in someone so they will want to take action." (This definition of engagement comes directly from a terrific new book, The Dragonfly Effect, by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith, which I highly recommend.)

So let's reframe the question:

"How do I inspire passion in my board members—whether they are local or far flung—so they will want to take action?"

In order to do accomplish this larger goal, your board members need to know what your organization is trying to accomplish and what their role is to make it happen. This is a big shift for many boards. I find that organizations don't have a clear set of goals each year and don't know what they want their board members to do.

You need to be able to express your goals in terms of how many people you want to help, such as: "If we raise $250,000, we can help 1,400 families."

Instead, organizations often say, "We want to help as many people as possible." If your board members know exactly what your goals are for the year, then they can rally around them. Clear goals help define your organization's effort for the year. And clear goals give people something to strive for.

Here's a plan for you if you want to keep your board members fully engaged.

1.Be sure your board members know what you are aiming to accomplish this year.
Put it in real numbers. For example:
* How many kids will we send to camp?
* How many meals do we want to serve?
* How many scholarships will we award to bright young students?

2.Be sure they know what the impact will be if you can make your plan happen.
Put it in real-people terms and talk about the ultimate benefit. For example:
* We'll help kids who go to camp be healthier, have better self-esteem, and do better in school.
* We will help hungry people get nutritious meals right here in our community.
* We'll help our brightest minds so they can help solve tomorrow's problems.

3.Be sure every board member knows what his or her job is to make the plan happen.
If you want to keep them engaged, you've got to give them clear actions. Everybody gets to have a role in implementing your plan. For example:
* Some board members are in charge of phoning donors to say thank you.
* Others are seeking sponsors for your annual gala.
* Others are in charge of enlisting more volunteers.
* Others are serving on a task force to identify VIP prospective donors.
* Others may be serving on a governmental relations committee to strengthen your relationships with elected officials.

The deal is this: EVERYBODY on the board has a job and is in action for the cause.

Keep in close touch with your board members each week or month, letting them know of your successes.
* Success breeds success.
* Good news stimulates momentum and makes everybody happy.
* It encourages action.
* Peer pressure will also encourage everyone to step up and do their job, too.

Also ask for help frequently from board members if you need it. But ask for specific things.

Try these strategies, and see if your board doesn't get fired up!

Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE

Nonprofit Times TV

Nonprofit Times TV has a collection of webcasts and other videos directed specifically to nonprofits and their needs and interests. Videos cover not just current news, but issues such as fundraising, volunteer management, legal issues, and finance. Most videos are less than three minutes, giving necessary information without taking too much time. Users can also submit their own videos to share ideas with others in the sector.

Their current webcast discusses the loss of revenue of national nonprofit organizations and the Jerry Lewis telethon. Check out Nonprofit Times TV here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce Honors Members as Businesses of the Year

Alternatives Federal Credit Union, The Plantsmen Nursery, Ithaca College, and Finger Lakes ReUse have been named the recipients of the 2010 Business of the Year Awards given by the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.

Alternatives Federal Credit Union was named as the winner of the David R. Strong Small Business of the Year and The Plantsmen Nursery was named the New Business of the Year.

Alternatives Federal Credit Union CEO Tristram Coffin was elated, saying, “We are thrilled and honored to be selected as the Chamber's Small Business of the Year. This recognition illustrates the power of business as a tool to make a positive difference in the lives of underserved people and communities.”

Dan Segal, owner of the Plantsmen Nursery, said, “We’re honored to receive the Chamber’s New Business Award because it validates our efforts to offer something unusual in the nursery/landscape field, and recognition from the Chamber adds depth to the growing credibility of our business. I also see it as a nod towards our genuine efforts to be a clean and green business while still managing to grow beyond a marginal enterprise. And as the award reflects on our civic involvement, we wouldn't be successful without the patronage and trust of our community, so we really enjoy supporting as many local projects as we can, as a way of showing our gratitude and giving back. It may sound corny but it's true!”

Ithaca College was named the Large Employer of the Year Award, and Finger Lakes ReUse was awarded the Not-for-Profit Organization of the Year from the Chamber of Commerce.

Ithaca College President Tom Rochon stated, “Being honored by the Chamber of Commerce as the Large Employer of the Year is an accolade that is truly shared by every single member of the Ithaca College community. Our faculty, staff, and students are constantly striving to find ways to support and contribute to the betterment of the larger community in which we all reside, and it is on their behalf that I accept this very meaningful recognition.”

As the recipient of the Not-for-Profit Organization of the Year, Diane Cohen, Executive Director of Finger Lakes ReUse, stated, “We're very pleased to receive this award from the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce; it is a great way to recognize our amazingly dedicated board of directors and hard-working staff of 13 employees; all of whom helped establish Finger Lakes ReUse as an organization with a clear and achievable mission: to enhance community, economy, and environment through reuse. We are grateful for the community support we’ve received since we opened the ReUse Center less than two years ago. We are happy to say that we have now re-purposed more than 100,000 unwanted items including furniture, housewares, building materials, computers, and electronics. We couldn’t have done any of this without key support from our volunteers, and all those who have supported our efforts from the start, particularly Tompkins County Solid Waste and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.”

“The dozens of very qualified nominees for these awards were both a challenge and a delight. The awards committee members devoted many hours to reading the excellent applications, but it was a very real pleasure to learn more about these well-run and mission-driven businesses and organizations”, said Tompkins Chamber President, Jean McPheeters.

The Chamber Awards will be given to the recipients at two luncheons. The first will be on Thursday October 14 at the Lakewatch Inn, where Alternatives Federal Credit Union and The Plantsmen Nursery will receive their awards. The second luncheon will be on Friday November 19 at the Holiday Inn Downtown. Please go to to register.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

National Philanthropy Day Friday, November 19 Features Peter Bloom from

National Philanthropy Day – Friday, November 19
Peter Bloom, a successful entrepreneur and one of the founders of, an award-winning online charity that connects donors with innovative class room project ideas generated by public school teachers, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s National Philanthropy Day luncheon. Bloom is also a Binghamton native and part-time resident of Ithaca.

The awards luncheon, an annual event sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of the Finger Lakes, will be held on Friday, November 19, 2010, from noon to 2:00 p.m. at Celebrations, 2331 Slaterville Road in Ithaca.

Award recipients this year are Ceil & Jim Spero, Philanthropists of the Year; Eugene Yarussi, Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year; Chemung Canal Trust Company, Corporate Philanthropist of the Year; and Johnson Museum Director, Frank Robinson, who will be honored for Outstanding Professional Achievement in Non-profit Leadership.

The event is sponsored by Cayuga Medical Center Foundation, Community, Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Community Foundation of Tompkins County, Gannett Central New York Newspaper Group, Legacy Foundation, Park Foundation, Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund, Triad Foundation, and United Way of Tompkins County.

The luncheon is $35 per person ($30 for AFP members.) Tables for 8 can be reserved for $250. Reservations are due by November 11th. To make a reservation or for more information contact Jan Hertel, National Philanthropy Day chair at 607 274-4284 or go to

Suzanne Smith Jablonski
Executive Director
Tompkins County Public Library Foundation
101 East Green Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (607) 272-4557 ext. 231
Fax: (607) 272-8111

Friday, September 17, 2010

STNED 3rd Quarter Meeting: "Behind the Scenes of Foundations- Purpose, Priority, and Process”

Posted on Provider Online from the Institute of Human Services:

STNED 3rd Quarter Meeting Overviewposted 9/16/2010

The Southern Tier Nonprofit Executive Directors (STNED) would like to thank all colleagues who attended the 3rd quarter 2010 meeting "Behind the Scenes of Foundations- Purpose, Priority, and Process” on September 16th at 171 Cedar Arts Center in Corning, NY. The meeting included an informative discussion on funding sources for nonprofits in our region, led by four panelists who shared their knowledge of the grant making procedure in detail. The panelists included Liz Wilder, Director of Grantmakers Forum of New York, Christine Sproule, Director of The Triangle Fund, Sara Palmer, Program Officer at The Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, and Karen Martin, Associate Director of Corning Incorporated Foundation. Each panelist gave an overview of the background of their organizations and the strategies used by each when evaluating the distribution of funds within the Southern Tier. All panelists engaged in similar topics, such as current trends in grantmaking, different approaches of addressing social issues in our community, the various types of funds available to agencies depending on specific needs, and the in-depth explanation of what happens to a grant application from start to finish. The most common theme discussed and strongly expressed by each panelist was the importance of organizations engaging funders as partners, and the encouragement of invitation for site visits as a vital step towards building and maintaining a relationship. Following the meeting, those in attendance were given the opportunity to tour the 171 Cedar Arts Center facility.

The next STNED meeting and social will be held on December 2, 2010 at Three Birds Restaurant in Corning, NY. More details regarding this event will be sent closer to the event date.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Funders' Panel Save the Date November 8

Local Funders' Panel - PLEASE HOLD THE DATE!
Monday, November 8, 2010, from 9:30 to 11:30 AM
Beverly Livesay Room
Tompkins County Human Services Building
320 West State Street

Participating Panelists:
James A. Brown, President, United Way of Tompkins County
George P. Ferrari, Jr., Executive Director, Community Foundation of Tompkins County
Joanne Florino, Executive Director, Triad Foundation
Jon Jensen, Executive Director, Park Foundation
Nancy E. Massicci, Manager, Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund
Scott C. Russell, Director of Development, Legacy Foundation
Kara Williams, Program Manager, Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York
Facilitator, Richard Driscoll

Members of the panel will provide an organizational overview, discuss funding opportunities, provide funding guidelines and time-lines, and discuss technical assistance or other value-added opportunities provided to local non-profits. Time will also be available for questions from attendees.

Free and open to the public. This event is sponsored by the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County. Inc.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Donor Study Offers New Insight

Russ Reid "Heart of the Donor™: Insights into Donor Motivation and Behavior for the 21st Century" Research Finds Surprising Answers to Those and Other Questions

NEW YORK, Aug. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- A new research study was released Tuesday that may change the way many nonprofits approach their fundraising budgets. The report, Heart of the Donor, Insights into Donor Motivation and Behavior for the 21st Century, uncovers valuable insights on donor behavior and preferences as well as insight into age, demographic and other factors.

The report will be unveiled at the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation conference at the Sheraton New York City. The research was commissioned and created by Russ Reid and conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting. The survey took place in June of this year.

As many would expect, the study finds that today's most valuable donors – boomers and older donors – primarily give through the mail. But those in the 25-54 age range tended to give both online and through the mail. "One thing we find interesting is this nexus in the 25-54 year old group," said Lisa McIntyre, Russ Reid Senior Vice President, Strategy Development. "The donors who will be most important to us in the coming decade seem equally facile with both mail and online."

But according to the study, older donors are more generous.

"The point is this: if the goal of a nonprofit is to effectively target today's best donors, then they should focus significant and smart attention on the donors giving the most money – seniors and boomers," said McIntyre. "For example, the number of donors in the 18-24 group and 70-plus are comparable, but the 70-plus donor gives three times as much."

"Does that mean nonprofits should turn a blind eye to the younger segments?" McIntyre continued. "Of course not. Their value will likely increase as they age. But fundraising expenditures must be weighted according to a strategy that maximizes those who are giving now."

The report suggests that fundraisers should focus their money on the channels that perform the best. While social media is an exciting means of reaching the younger community, the report indicated those who are active there don't use it for donations.

Another striking result of the survey shows that people want to give to charities that spend money on good management. Given a choice, the respondents preferred organizations that hire top-quality managers, even with higher salaries, over hiring less experienced managers and spending fewer dollars on salaries. An even greater percentage would rather support an organization that spends more on fundraising and brings in more money to help the cause than would support an organization that spends little on fundraising but raises less money. "Only 28 percent would opt for efficiency over effectiveness," said McIntyre.

"Nonprofits are under relentless scrutiny for their fundraising costs," said McIntyre. "The questions on costs tell us that what donors want more than anything else is value for their money. Spending money on salaries is fine, as long as your leaders are effective. If you spend more on fundraising, it's fine as long as it effectively raises more money for the work."

The report also focused on the impact of the disaster in Haiti on nonprofit fundraising. 38 percent of Americans gave to help Haiti. 52 percent of active donors – those who regularly give to nonprofits – donated. Very surprisingly, nearly 30 percent of Haiti donors say they did not support any nonprofits in the last year, including 16 percent of fairly determined non donors. Most likely to give to Haiti were African Americans (51 percent), Latinos (53 percent), Asians (59 percent) as were people not born in the US (59 percent).

Four out of ten donors said that if they had not given to the Haiti disaster, the money would have gone elsewhere. Still, 58 percent of donors believe that what they gave to Haiti was unique – it was over and above what they normally give. Haiti was a first-time giving impetus for 3 percent of all Americans, 6.7 million people.

Haiti donations saw massive channel donation differences, with text-to-give having a big impact. While 32 percent of donors said they gave to nonprofits working in Haiti through places of worship, another 22 percent gave online, and 19 percent through texting. Questioned if the limits on text donations resulted in lower donations, 90 percent of text donors claim they would have donated through another channel had texting not been provided.

"The Haiti experience reminds us that emergency donors and everyday donors are different," said McIntyre. "And the best donors will give over and above what they normally do, not instead of what they typically give."

DMANF participants were able to review portions of the study at the conference, and more elements of the study will be released in the coming months.

More than two-thousand respondents participated in the study. It was conducted both by phone and through a pre-recruited online research panel. The study was also conducted in English and Spanish.

Russ Reid, founded in 1964, is part of Omnicom Group, Inc. (NYSE: OMC). Omnicom is a leading global marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom's branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, direct and promotional marketing, public relations and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.

Grey Matter Research is a market research firm specializing in serving non-profit organizations, offering sophisticated qualitative and quantitative techniques to uncover details that make a tangible difference for clients.

Interviews are available with McIntyre, Russ Reid President and CEO Tom Harrison, Executive Vice President Alan Hall, and Ron Sellers of Grey Matter. To schedule, contact Steve Ruppe or Alison Rienas at the numbers above. Go to, for additional information.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

$2 million donation to help local nonprofits

WETM-2 TV reported that several local nonprofit organizations will receive a substantial financial boost, thanks to the generosity and foresight of an anonymous donor. In all, eight organizations and programs will equally share a more than $2-million bequest from an individual estate, each receiving about $250,000.

Some of the local beneficiaries include 171 Cedar Arts Center, United Way of the Southern Tier, Southern Tier Hospice, and the Southeast Steuben County Library. The organizations respect the donor's desire to remain anonymous, yet wish to publicly acknowledge the generous act.

Monday, July 19, 2010

National Council of Nonprofits Updates for Your Nonprofit

Five Worst Government Contracting Abuses
Late payments for contracted services is only one of many ways that governments shortchange nonprofits and exploit the contracting relationship. See the five worst government contracting abuses and let us know if you can add further documentation, if you've seen worse, or if you know of solutions in your state that help prevent these and other abuses.

Hearing to Consider Gulf Coast Need for Charitable Assistance
Viewing the impact of the Gulf oil spill on people in the region, Congress is asking "what needs to be done and how the charitable sector and others can reach out to these communities and help." The Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, July 20, to consider these questions and examine how donations contributed to charities are being used. In announcing the hearing, Chairman John Lewis (D-GA) stated, "This is the moment when government must rely on charitable organizations to fulfill their missions and address these urgent needs."

Rival Estate Tax Revisions Proposed
The estate tax expired at the end of 2009, but will snap back automatically in 2011 to a 55 percent tax rate with a $1 million exemption unless changes are made. Senators are proposing rival plans to weaken or strengthen the federal tax on estates. Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced a measure last week to set the estate tax rate at 35 percent, with a $5 million exemption phased in over 10 years and indexed for inflation. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act, S.3533 to set an exemption of $3.5 million and impose tax rates from between 35 percent and 55 percent based on the size of the estate above the exemption level. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that he does not intend to allow any estate tax votes in the coming weeks, but he continues to negotiate with the Republican Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on the Senate schedule and amendments.

Financial Regulatory Reform Enacted, Cuts Debit Card Fees
Last week the Senate passed and sent to President Obama the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R.4173). The measure imposes new restrictions on risky financial investments, creates a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau within the Federal Reserve, and allows the Federal Reserve to regulate the amount of fees that nonprofits and merchants can be charged for debit card transactions. President Obama is expected to sign the bill this week.

Nonprofit Sector Act
Federal Data of "Uncertain Quality"
The case for the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act, H.R. 5533, was made recently by SubsidyScope, a program of Pew Charitable Trusts. In seeking to analyze the effects of tax subsidies and federal grants, the authors reached the following conclusions:

"It is challenging to assemble and present spending and subsidy data regarding the nonprofit sector because the federal government does not identify nonprofits as a distinct budget category. Further, federal budget data are of uncertain quality; specifically, the data available through are incomplete because certain program information is missing for a number of records, making it difficult to discern which specific agencies and programs may be awarding funds to nonprofits."

A key component of H.R. 5533 is to overcome the data challenges that SubsidyScope, and many other nonprofit researchers, have identified.

IRS Seeks Comments on New Disclosure Requirement
The health care reform law enacted earlier this year requires nonprofits and businesses, starting in 2012, to report aggregate payments to vendors in excess of $600 for goods and other property. The requirement applies for payments to all vendors, not just those related to health care. Currently, nonprofits and others are required to file Form 1099s for payment of services by independent contractors, but not for goods from vendors. The IRS is seeking public comment on how to most effectively carry out the law change, with the stated goal of minimizing burdens and avoiding duplicate reporting. The deadline for comments is Sept. 29, 2010. Please share this information with your accounting and operations personnel and send the National Council your ideas on how best to limit the impact of this new reporting requirement.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Call for Action on Charitable Giving Change in NYS

NYCON has added it's voice to those of other nonprofit leaders taking a stand against the proposed change to charitable deductions for high income individuals in New York State.

The proposal would result in a 50% decrease in the deductibility of charitable gifts from higher income donors. Already, earners of $1 million or more can only claim 50% of their contribution as a deduction. This proposal would allow donors earning $10 million or more to claim just 25% of their contribution. NYCON is also concerned that this may potentially be the start of eroding charitable deductions in general.

We are urging our members to learn more about this proposal by reading the following articles by the New York Nonprofit Press, The Daily News, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Then, please join us in adding your voice to the memo of opposition by contacting us via email or calling Doug Sauer, CEO at (800) 515-5012 ext. 103.

Contact NYCON and sign onto the Memo of Opposition.
Contact your Senator. Click here for a searchable database of representatives.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Director of Development and Marketing for The Kitchen Theatre Company

The Kitchen Theatre Company seeks a Director of Development & Marketing. Seeking a candidate who will join the team to lead the Kitchen Theatre Company’s efforts in fund raising, marketing and positioning the theater for the next steps as it relocates to a
newly renovated space. This new position will have the support of two full-time interns and the involvement of highly committed full-time staff. Successful candidate will have professional experience or education in the field of development and/or marketing.
Candidate must have excellent organizational skills, be able to manage multiple priorities, and work effectively under tight deadlines. Excellent verbal and writing skills are critical. This position requires a mature interpersonal style and a positive enthusiastic
attitude. Knowledge of the performing arts a plus. Experience with Microsoft programs and database management preferred. Opportunity for new-to-the-job-market go-getter or experienced professional. Flexible schedule can be discussed for experienced applicants.
Letters of inquiry and resumes should be sent to: Rachel Lampert, Artistic Director at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Museumwise Meet-Up

We have regional events upcoming at member venues across the state.

Here is a quick list of where we will be and when:

Finger Lakes - The Landmark Society's Ellwanger Garden,
adjacent to The Ellwanger Estate B&B
DATE: Monday, August 9, 2010
TIME: 5:00-6:30pm

Southern Tier - Corning Museum of Glass
DATE: TBD (August)
TIME: 5:00-6:30pm

Members, friends, colleagues - join us for an after work reception

How often do we say "we should get together this summer" well, here's the opportunity! Museumwise (formerly Upstate History Alliance) provides support and training to museums and historical societies through professional development opportunities, grants, and our annual conference.

Join us for a bit of networking with your regional colleagues, and to learn about Museumwise and the services we offer in a casual setting.

The reception is free and open to the public so by all means bring a colleague! Preregistration is requested, email or call (800.895.1648) with your name, organizational affiliation and full contact information (address, phone, email) to register. Be sure to indicate which session you will be attending.

Thank you to our colleagues for graciously offering to host these gatherings. We look forward to seeing you!

Catherine Gilbert
Executive Director
11 Ford Avenue
Oneonta, New York 13820

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NYS has more control over health insurance rate increases

The Central NY Business Journal reported that the New York State Insurance Department again has the authority to review and approve health-insurance premium increases before they take effect.

Gov. David Paterson signed the bill allowing the reinstatement of the power today.
Since 2000, New York had regulated health-insurance premiums under a "file and use" law that "significantly" limited the state's ability to disapprove premium increases and allowed the insurance industry to regulate itself, the governor's office said in a news release.

The new law requires health insurers and health-maintenance organizations (HMOs) to make an application to the Insurance Department to implement premium increases.
The department would review the rate-increase applications, as well as the underlying calculations, to ensure that the rates are justified and not excessive, the governor's office said.

The law would apply to all rate increases taking effect on or after Oct. 1, 2010.
In addition, the legislation will immediately require health insurers and HMOs to spend more of every premium dollar they collect on medical claims.

In particular, the law raises the "medical-loss ratio," or the percentage of premium spent to provide medical care, from 75 percent to 82 percent for small businesses and from 80 percent to 82 percent for individuals.

In a statement released Tuesday night, the New York State Conference of BlueCross BlueShield Plans expressed "complete disappointment" over what it calls "government-imposed price controls." Read more here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NPR's All Things Considered Discusses Tax Issues Facing Nonprofits

NPR story, Amid Red Ink, Tax-Exempts Asked To Add To Coffers, features NYCON CEO Doug Sauer.

State and local governments, eager to close their budget gaps, are increasingly going after charities and other tax-exempt groups. Government officials are proposing new fees on nonprofits to help pay for services. They're also challenging the exemptions these groups get from sales and property taxes.

In Concord, Mass., for example, the Board of Selectmen sent a letter to the town's nonprofits earlier this year. It said that local property taxes were so high they were driving residents away. The board asked the town's private schools, hospitals, charities and churches if they could start paying their fair share.

"I guess we're just hoping that in times where people are economically really stretched, that to the extent that they're able, they can contribute," says board member Virginia McIntyre.

But the initial response was not what the board had hoped. One arts group offered to contribute $1,000 to the town, but most of the nonprofits responded — politely — that they contributed to Concord in many nonmonetary ways.

'A Slippery Slope'

Kathi Anderson is executive director of the Walden Woods Project in Concord. It preserves property including Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau — who, she notes, went to jail rather than pay a tax he opposed.

"The land that is now protected is a wonderful resource, not only for people who live in the community, but for people who visit the community," Anderson says.

She says she feels the town's pain but that her group is hurting financially, too. She says it would be hard-pressed to come up with the $89,000 Concord says the Walden Woods Project would owe if it weren't tax-exempt. Even a "donation" to the town would send the wrong message, Anderson says.

"This is a slippery slope because if indeed a donation is made, then it implies that one supports the notion of having charities essentially pay taxes," Anderson says.

And that would fly in the face of the long-time relationship between government and charity — the idea that nonprofits fill a valuable community role and should be exempt from tax.

But increasingly that relationship is being challenged. Boston wants its universities, hospitals and nonprofits to pay 25 percent of what they'd owe if they weren't tax-exempt. Philadelphia is talking to its universities about similar payments. Kansas and Hawaii considered repealing tax exemptions for nonprofits as part of their budget debates. And Minneapolis has imposed a "streetlight fee" on nonprofits to help pay for electricity and bulbs.

Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits, says these moves couldn't come at a worse time.

"Corporate donations are down significantly. Individual giving is down. Foundation giving is down substantially," even though demand for charitable services is up, he says. Delaney says adding more costs will only hurt taxpayers in the long run because there's high demand for the types of services — such as health care and food pantries — that many nonprofits provide.

"When we can't [provide them], then there's greater needs in the community. And when the needs get so severe, then we're going to find people demanding that government step in. That is going to cost a whole lot more," he says.

Albany's Experience

But Frank Commisso, a council member in Albany, N.Y., says cities like his have little choice. More than half of Albany's property is tax-exempt because the city is home to so many state offices, hospitals and universities. But he says these institutions still rely on city services. Read more and listen to the story here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cayuga Community Fund Awards First Grants

Fifteen Cayuga-based nonprofit groups received grants totaling $12,500 in the first-ever distribution from the Cayuga Community Fund. The Fund, with endowment assets of approximately $500,000, was established in 2008.

Auburn Beautification Commission received $1,000 to implement community park improvements at Osborne Park. The improvements will provide recreational opportunities for community families and children with playground equipment, benches, lighting and trees.

Auburn Civic Band received $500 to purchase folding chairs for performers’ use at public band performances in Auburn and surrounding areas.

Booker T. Washington Community Center received $1,000 to support the BTW University summer program. The six-week summer program for youth ages 5-13 will offer insight into higher education and an opportunity to grow academically during the summer recess.

Cayuga Counseling Services received $1,000 to present a one-day Minimal Facts seminar to Cayuga County school personnel who are the first to respond to disclosures of child sexual and physical abuse. The seminar assists first-responders in gathering enough information about the allegation to make a report without creating undue stress to the child.

Cayuga County Community Health Network received $1,000 to provide educational programming to individuals with diabetes or prediabetes. The programming will teach individuals how to manage their diabetes through appropriate care and increase knowledge with at-risk individuals to engage in healthy behaviors that will prevent or delay diabetes occurrence.
Cayuga Museum of History and Art received $1,000 to purchase computers and digitizing equipment that will allow staff to use PowerPoint in new exhibits. The Museum, established in 1936, provides a forum for the public to interact with and appreciate Cayuga County’s past.

Chapel House received $400 to launch a garden project that will provide food to residents of the shelter. Chapel House provides homeless services to men, women and children on a 24-hour basis.

Child Care Solutions received $1,000 to purchase materials for child care providers that will encourage large motor activities for children during the winter months.

Good Shepherd Catholic Community received $500 to provide food for the BackPack Program that provides at-risk youth with food over the weekends. The program seeks to reduce a weekend meal gap and help children return to school on Monday better prepared to learn, increasing their likelihood for academic success.

Human Services Coalition of Cayuga County received $1,400 to conduct a community food security assessment. The assessment will identify the needs of Cayuga County residents for accessible, affordable, health-promoting food and formulate recommendations for effective, collaborative solutions.

Literacy Volunteers of Cayuga County received $1,000 to provide classes on GED test preparation for adults seeking employment.

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Cayuga County received $1,000 toward the purchase of a photo-text exhibit, Nothing to Hide – Mental Illness in the Family, for display at various locations. The exhibit will bring visibility to individuals with mental illness and their families to dispel stereotypes, myths and misconceptions about mental illness.

Options of Independence received $500 to help support the creation of the Personal Bank Care program. The program will provide a pantry of personal care toiletry items such as shampoo and toothbrushes that can be distributed to the county’s needy families and individuals.

Peachtown Elementary School received $500 to support the community workshop, The 4A’s: Autism, Allergies, Asthma and ADHD: Your Child’s Diet and Diagnosis. The program will help parents understand how their diets directly affect the behavior of children and their readiness for learning.

Transportation Project for Cayuga County received $700 to transport Freedom Recreational clients to and from Freedom Camp 2010. The camp, held at Casey Park, provides recreational, educational and social activities to persons with disabilities.

About the Cayuga Community Fund
The Cayuga Community Fund is a geographically specific fund, administered by the Central New York Community Foundation. The Fund was created to benefit residents of Cayuga County by serving as a source of permanent charitable dollars for nonprofits serving residents of the County. Grants are awarded from the endowment fund annually to support programs in education, health, social services, the arts, civic and environmental concerns, as well as the preservation of historic resources in Cayuga County.

The Leadership Council of The Cayuga Community Fund is chaired by Robert Bergan. Other Council members are Jim Courtney, Dan Cuddy, Ken Entenmann, Jill Fandrich, Jack Hardy, Howard Hartnett, Alice Hoatland, Marianne O’Connor, William Ryan, Lisa Marsh Ryerson, David Stapleton, and Steve Zabriskie.

The Central New York Community Foundation has served Central New York for over 80 years, receiving, managing and distributing charitable funds for the benefit of nonprofit organizations. Grants are awarded for programs in the areas of human services, arts and culture, education, environment, health, economic development and civic affairs. The region’s largest endowed philanthropic foundation, the Central New York Community Foundation awards more than $5 million in grants to nonprofit organizations annually. The Community Foundation, with its office at 500 South Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202, can be reached at (315) 422-9538 or