Policy changes coming out of Washington, D.C. are expected to affect the costs and operations of nonprofit organizations that have government grants and contracts.
The policy changes involve the expected publication of the Labor Department’s revised overtime regulations AND potential revisions to the OMB Uniform Guidance affecting how nonprofits spend grant funds.
If your nonprofit has grants or contracts with the local, state, tribal or federal government, please take a few minutes to complete the National Council of Nonprofits' brief but important survey:
Posted By Guest Blog: Nel Edgington,
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Updated: Thursday, April 21, 2016
The new millennium has been a difficult one. A struggling global economy, threatening climate change, crumbling education and healthcare systems, and a widening income gap are just a few of the social problems we face. And as our social challenges mount, and the government increasingly offloads services, the burden shifts to the nonprofit sector.
It is time for a new kind of nonprofit leader, one who has the confidence, ability, foresight, energy, and strength of will to find and deliver on solutions.
It is time we move from a nonprofit leader who is worn out, worn down, out of money and faced with insurmountable odds, to a reinvented nonprofit leader who confidently gathers and leads the army of people and resources necessary to create real, lasting social change.
In my mind, here is what the new nonprofit leader should look like:
Unlocks the Charity Shackles
“Charity” is more than a word, it’s a destructive mindset that keeps the work of social change sidelined and impoverished. “Charity” harkens back to the beginnings of philanthropy, which was largely the purview of women and viewed as tangential to and less valuable than the more important “business” of the male-dominated world. While charity was an afterthought, social change is rapidly becoming an integral part of the economy. As social problems mount, we must shift from the “charity” of our predecessors to an understanding of social change as part of everything we do. And nonprofit leaders must confidently and assertively articulate the critical importance of their work and why it requires real investment, because social change is about changing larger systems. So it takes real, significant investment of resources, not the pennies that charity requires.
Moves From Misplaced Gratitude to Impregnable Confidence
In the nonprofit sector there is such a pervasive power imbalance that misplaced gratitude, or gratitude for acts that are actually NOT helpful, often gets in the way of real work. If a nonprofit leader acts grateful when she should actually voice frustration or disappointment (with a delinquent board member or a meddlesome funder), she is cutting off authentic conversations that could result in more effective partnerships. Nonprofit leaders must rise from bended knee with confidence in themselves, their staff, and their social change work to articulate what they really need. To be truly successful, a nonprofit leader needs a board that will move mountains, donors who fully fund and believe in the organization, and a staff that can knock it out of the park. And they get there by being honest about, not grateful for, the roadblocks in the way.
Lives, Breathes and Leads Strategy
Real social change is only a pipe dream if it is not connected to smart strategy. To get there a nonprofit leader must ask board and staff to answer some key strategic questions like:
•What change do we want to create?
•Where do we fit in the external environment?
•How do we measure if that change is happening?
•What are the right activities to get to there?
•What is the most sustainable financial model to get there?
•What people and networks do we need with us?
These are not easy questions, and finding the right answers is even harder. But that is true leadership.
And part of that strategy may involve a (formerly feared) move into advocacy. 501(c) 3 organizations have long been told to stay out of politics. The myth is that charity is too noble to be mired in the mess of pushing for political change. But the fact is that simply providing services is no longer enough to solve the underlying problems. Nonprofits are increasingly recognizing that they can no longer sit by and watch their client load increase while disequilibrium grows. Nonprofits must (and many already are) advocate for changes to the ineffective systems that produce the need for their existence.
Uses Money as a Tool
Without money, a compelling, inspiring, world-changing vision for social change is only a sentence on paper. As much as we might like to deny it, nonprofits exist in a market economy, and without a smart plan for how a nonprofit will secure and use money there is no mission. So instead of dreaming up magic bullet fundraising schemes, a nonprofit leader must develop an overall financial model for her work that fully integrates with the organization’s mission and core competencies. And because money is so central to mission, you cannot make decisions about the organization, about programs, about staffing, really about anything without understanding the financial implications of those decisions.
Embraces the Network
If instead of building an institution, a nonprofit leader built networks, she could be much more effective at creating long-term social change. A true leader leaves her ego, and the ego of her organization aside in order to assemble all necessary resources (individuals, institutions, funding) to chart a path towards larger social change. Instead of thinking just about her organization, her staff, her mission, her board, her donors, the nonprofit leader must analyze and connect with the larger marketplace outside her walls, the points of leverage for attacking the problem on a much larger scale than a single organization can. A nonprofit leader understands that the network approach — particularly for nonprofits that are so resource-constrained — can create a much larger effect than a single entity can.
I believe that what separates great leaders from mediocre leaders is an ability to inspire others to greatness beyond what they thought possible. A true leader asks us to rise above our current circumstances – and in the nonprofit sector where more and more is being asked of organizations with less and less, those circumstances are often dire — to do more and be more than we ever thought possible. It is with that kind of real leadership that lasting social change can happen.
About the Author
Nell Edgington has almost 20 years of experience innovating in the nonprofit sector. At Social Velocity she helps nonprofit leaders chart a strategic direction, achieve financial sustainability, engage their boards, and become more effective leaders.
In addition to leading Social Velocity, she writes and speaks extensively about moving the nonprofit sector and the philanthropy that funds it to become more effective at creating social change. Author of the popular Social Velocity blog, Nell has also contributed to the Huffington Post Impact blog, the Foundation Center blog, CausePlanet, Fundraising Success Magazine, the Philanthropy 2173 blog, the About.com Nonprofit blog, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Mission:Innovation blog.
She is the author of The Strategic Management of Charter Schools: Frameworks and Tools for Educational Entrepreneurs (2011, Harvard Education Press). Nell is also a member of the national Leap Ambassadors Community, a network of over 70 nonprofit thought leaders and practitioners working to create a high performing nonprofit sector.
Posted By Guest Blog: Ted Legasey,
Monday, April 18, 2016
I have had the honor of chairing a number of nonprofit boards and have learned much in the process. When I step in as chair, I typically write a letter to the board sharing my thoughts on my role as chair. Madeleine thought you might find reading my typical letter helpful. Ted
Dear Fellow Board Members.
To help you understand me, let me share a little bit of my philosophy regarding boards.
My personal view is that a chairperson’s role is as a leader among equals. A good chairperson should be a facilitator who brings out the best in every board member in building a consensus from what can be very different points of view.
The chairperson has to be fair to all—a good listener and a good communicator. A good chairperson should also be open-minded and should encourage all board members to voice their views. To me this is critical because the whole concept of a board is based on the belief that the best decisions are made after full discussion and debate by people with different types of experiences.
The chairperson also has to be efficient in running meetings and moving us quickly without discouraging board members from sharing their views. The chair has to professionally interface with staff and various constituents and reflect the consensus of the entire board—even when it might differ from their own personal view on a matter.
Also, the chairperson is not the CEO, and should not intrude on the CEO’s responsibilities. Even though the board does have a responsibility for oversight, we must observe a line of demarcation between the responsibilities of the board and those of the CEO. Indeed, if we work well as a board then we will serve as a resource to the CEO that will help enable her or him to be truly successful in carrying out assigned responsibilities.
Personally, my style is to encourage open communication and debate. I prefer not to spend much time in board meetings on “transactional” matters that can be handled efficiently in advance or outside the meetings, so that we will have a much time as possible for substantive discussion. You will undoubtedly see me trying to move our meetings in this direction.
I believe that board committees are very valuable and should do their substantive work in advance of board meetings so that crisp reports can be made to the entire board. And finally, I encourage each of you to let me know at any time if you have suggestions for better ways to operate as a board. I look forward to working with all of you to accomplish this organization’s ambitious vision.
Each of us has agreed to serve on this board and give of our time, talent, and treasure for our own special reasons. In common, I suspect, is that we share a commitment to the broad mission area in general, and to this organization in particular. Today, neither is without their fair share of problems. This means our service can have great value.
I look forward to working with each of you to ensure this organization achieves its full potential.
About the Author
Ted is the board chair of the Charleston Promise Neighborhood and a member of the boards of the USAFA Endowment, the Trident United Way (TUW) and the Tri-County Cradle-to-Career Collaborative (TCCC). He is also a member of the TCCC Executive Committee. Ted was a founding member of SVP Charleston, which is a social venture philanthropy organization, and a founder of Book Buddies, which is the predecessor organization of Reading Partners Charleston.
Ted’s passion is helping to bring about fundamental improvement in the public education of children from lower income households, and he is co-chairing the Movement for Effective Schools for All Charleston Children.
Our membership development manager Laura Allen has experienced a nonprofit executive's ultimate dream – a transformational gift!
As many of you know, we share Laura’s time with the Children’s Security Blanket – a precious charity she serves part-time in Spartanburg that helps children with cancer. The Children’s Security Blanket helps their parents with the heavy burden of getting them to life-saving treatments – often traveling great distances to specialized pediatric oncology treatment centers.
Laura’s efforts to help one family caught the attention of two total strangers – an out-of-state couple who provided an apartment where a Spartanburg family shared Christmas with their gravely ill daughter as she underwent surgeries at Memorial Sloan Kettering. The couple were intrigued with Laura and The Children’s Security Blanket and how personally they cared for this family; they also gave a big gift to help The Children’s Security Blanket.
Now, they have committed a major multi-year gift, and they have challenged Laura to help children all across South Carolina, maybe even beyond!
As you might imagine, this will require Laura’s full attention, so SCANPO will be losing her very soon.
Laura has done a wonderful job for SCANPO in her membership capacity and we will miss her very much. She loves what we do, expects to rely enormously on our services and business partners as she grows The Children’s Security Blanket across the state.
Please join us in celebrating Laura’s extraordinary opportunity. We wish her well, and hope to keep you posted on The Children’s Security Blanket’s lifesaving adventure in the months ahead! Congratulations, Laura!
Below is a letter from Laura.
TO MY SCANPO FRIENDS:
It’s true…I have been leading a double life! In addition to my part-time role managing membership development for SCANPO, I have been serving (also part-time) as the first-ever Executive Director of a precious charity, The Children’s Security Blanket (CSB), serving children with cancer in Spartanburg County.
A nonprofit dream has come true for CSB – a major donor has challenged us to expand systematically our services across the State for children whose families are challenged by the rigorous demands of traveling to treatment services, often all across the country.
I will be leaving SCANPO to devote my entire efforts to this lifesaving work, but I shall cherish the many hundreds of our members and colleagues whom I have met, and I shall remain a great SCANPO fan. This year’s Summit was a great success, right in my hometown, and I shall look forward to being with you next year in Columbia. Meanwhile, I shall be sharing our progress at CSB, and no doubt will be in touch with many of you with partnering ideas.
My best wishes to Madeleine, Ben, Sharon, Debbie and all who deliver SCANPO benefits to us each day. My thanks to Ted, Reid, Mac and so many of our Board members who have helped this to be a spectacular time for me professionally.
Even with over 700 attendees, the 2016 Summit's reach to nonprofit board members was limited. And yet, many of you have asked for us to offer something for board members. We heard you loud and clear! So, here it is.
Our first regional Board Summit will occur on Friday, April 22. And, we're doing it in collaboration with an institution known for creating leaders - The Citadel Foundation.
This Board Leadership Summit is open to board members and CEOs of SCANPO member organizations. Highlights include:
Conversation with former Mayor Joe Riley and his sister, Jane Riley-Grambrell, about the Board's role in public-private partnerships;
Session on "How Boards Lead Today" with Susan Meier, a national board governance expert;
Breakout conversations that build upon popular Summit sessions.
8:30 – 9:00 Registration for Chairs and CEOs
Light Breakfast and Networking
9:00 - 10:45 Opening Session: Chair and CEO Conversations
Susan Meier, Meier and Associates & Senior Governance Consultant Board/Source
Charleston Promise Neighborhood – Chair Ted Legasey and CEO Sherrie Snipes-Williams
Charleston Regional Arts Alliance – Chair Lenna Macdonald and CEO Mike Gibons
10:30 – 11:00 Registration
Additional board members arrive and register. Networking in lobby.
11:00 - 12:00 A Conversation About Public Private Partnerships
Jane Riley-Gambrell, Executive Director of Communities in Schools (CIS) of Charleston will interview her brother and former Mayor of Charleston, Joe Riley.
12:00 - Box lunch
12:15 – 1:15 How Boards Lead Today....By Anticipating and Shaping Tomorrow
Susan Meier, Meier and Associates & Senior Governance Consultant Board/Source
1:15 – 2:55 Lead and Learn Discussions led by nonprofit leaders and business partner experts. Participants will select two 40-minute sessions.
2:55 – 3:25 Lead and Learn Wrap Up and Group Discussion
3:25 Summit Adjourns
3:45 Corps of Cadets Parade
4:30 – 6:30 SCANPO Spring Member Gathering
Open to nonprofit leaders from across the region!
The Citadel's Club Lounge (68 Haygood Avenue) overlooking the Johnson Hagood Stadium ** RSVP to email@example.com
During our 2016 Nonprofit Summit, we presented several distinction awards and participated in the presentation of Gene Cochrane, president of The Duke Endowment, receiving the state's highest civilian honor - The Order of the Palmetto. It has been such an incredible honor to share in the excitement with these incredible individuals and organizations.
We have decided to fill five seats with new Directors. Directors serve three-year terms and the Board meets four to five times a year, typically the last Tuesday of the second month of the quarter. Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to review our current Board Member Responsibility Statement!
help increase the diversity of age, ethnicity, gender, geography served, member type, and skills represented on the Board so that the Board is reflective of the diversity of its membership and the charitable nonprofit sector in South Carolina.
At least fifty-one percent (51%) of the Board must be employees of organizations that are recognized as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code in accordance with SCANPO Bylaws.
We will close nominations on Friday, March 11th at midnight so we can discuss during the Summit.
Our goal is to email the final slate to voting members in April when you will have two weeks to review and vote. New members will be invited to attend the Board retreat in May.
Posted By Guest Blog: Alan Canter,
Monday, February 1, 2016
I’m often approached by people asking for advice on creating a new nonprofit.
My response, inevitably: Don’t do it!
I say this not because I question the power of nonprofits to change the world for the better. Nor do I doubt the sincerity of the person hoping to create that new charitable institution. But there is an awfully good probability – I’d say, 99% – that there’s no rational justification for creating a whole new entity.
There are currently 1.4 million nonprofits in the United States. That’s one-point-four-million organizations that need to recruit board members, raise money, keep minutes, file financial returns, hire staff, pay staff, develop logos, maintain Facebook pages, buy copy paper, apply for grants, update websites, design strategic planning retreats, and – assuming there’s time – do a little bit of good in the process.
As a consultant over the last few years, I’ve seen time and again how nonprofit organizations, many of which provide critically important services, have been dealing with chronic budget deficits, high staff turnover, and uncertainty. I find myself involved in conversations to help these nonprofits merge or shut down or reconfigure their missions to survive.
And yet each year there are more and more nonprofits competing for the same limited resources. It makes no sense.
So who are these people who are so hell-bent on creating new nonprofits?
The first group is The Emotionally Motivated. For example, there’s the retired executive who credits learning to rock climbing as a boy with much of his success in life. He tears up talking about it. So in his retirement he starts a rock climbing school for kids from less advantaged backgrounds. Or take the group of people who grew up attending a small rural synagogue. They’re distraught because, with shifts of population, the temple has gone out of business and the building has been abandoned. So they raise funds to preserve the synagogue, even though it no longer functions as a regular house of worship.
The most common among the emotionally motivated are people who want to commemorate the death of a family member or a publicly prominent person. A family creates a nonprofit to fight the particular disease that killed their loved one – even though there are undoubtedly organizations already doing just that. Or there’s a police officer who is shot in the line of duty, or a journalist who is killed while on assignment in a war zone. These are lives that are absolutely worth commemorating, and the emotions of those involved are very real, and very raw. But there are lots of ways to accomplish this commemoration short of creating a nonprofit organization. Supporters could make memorial gifts to the deceased’s favorite cause, or they could create a special scholarship fund to be managed by the local community foundation. They could start an annual 5K charity race in the person’s name. There are dozens of viable, meaningful, and relatively efficient ways of remembering the person short of creating a new organization.
But instead many people reflexively have an urge to start a new nonprofit. They’ll file for tax-exempt status, recruit a board, and launch their effort. They are moved by emotions, and they overlook the fact that the new organization will be ineffective at best, may not be viable at all, and likely will be cannibalizing support from more established and effective agencies.
I’ll call the second set of nonprofit establishers The Splinter Groupers. These are staff and board members of an organization that has gone in a direction that they don’t approve, or that has little interest in their particular passions. For example, a land conservation trust may acquire a parcel of land that includes a historic house, but the land trust has no interest in managing the house as a tourist destination. So a new group forms to oversee the historic building. In many ways that makes sense, but it’s another 501(c)(3) that needs to be cared for and fed, often drawing from the same donors and board members as the original organization.
Or take the example of parents of students at a private middle school who are frustrated that the administrators won’t consider extending the school beyond eighth grade. They lead an effort to spin off a new high school. Once the high school is established, different Splinter Groupers then start a separate nonprofit booster club to support that school’s sports teams because they feel the school is inadequately funding athletics. (Splinters beget splinters.)
And then there is, frankly, a third group: The Scam Artists. These crooks throw together a putative nonprofit for the sake of stealing money from naïve donors. As I have written before, these scoundrels prey on donors (particularly the elderly) by creating organizations whose names inevitably include some combination of the words “children,” “cancer,” “veterans,” “police,” and “firefighters.” These are the scourge of the nonprofit world, ruining the reputation of the field and bilking innocent donors out of millions.
One would think that it’s fairly hard to start a new nonprofit, but that’s not the case. The Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organization Division is the traffic cop on this beat, and one of its concerns should be on keeping unqualified nonprofits from getting 501(c)(3) status. But that’s simply not happening. The IRS Exempt Organization Division by most accounts is woefully understaffed, so a significant backlog of nonprofit applications built up in recent years. You’d think that the solution for eliminating the backlog would have been to add staff members and capacity, but (responding to budget restraints and political pressure) the IRS instead instituted a new, speedier process of granting tax-exempt status through something called the 1023-EZ form – a three-page electronic application that for smaller nonprofits has replaced what had been a 26-page paper application.
The highly predictable result? Last year the IRS approved more than double the usual number of new nonprofits, accepting over 94,000 new organizations in 2014, while rejecting only 67. (No, that’s not a typo. Put another way, for every 10,000 nonprofit applications that spill over the transom, the IRS rejected only seven.)
Not surprisingly, there are some problems with these new nonprofits. A study by the Taxpayer Advocate Service (an independent watchdog group within the IRS) suggests that over one-third of the new applicants could and should have been quickly dismissed up front for their failure to present an acceptable purpose clause. How many of these newly minted nonprofits are pure scams is anyone’s guess.
It’s a mess. As Tim Delaney, the president of the National Council on Nonprofits, put it, “The IRS is handing out tax-exempt statuses like Halloween candy.”
So can you create a new nonprofit? Yes, and, unfortunately, more easily than ever. Should you? Almost certainly, no. And should we be concerned about what’s going on? Absolutely.
About the author: Alan Cantor spent nearly three decades in the nonprofit sector before founding Alan Cantor Consulting LLC in January 2012. He focuses on helping community-based nonprofits be more effective. He has facilitated strategic retreats, conducted development and strategic assessments, trained staff and board members, conducted campaign feasibility studies, mentored CEOs, presented at conferences, and written widely on the challenges facing the nonprofit sector. Learn more about Alan.
Posted By Madeleine McGee,
Monday, January 25, 2016
Updated: Monday, January 25, 2016
2015 - what a year for our country, our state, even for SCANPO. Before we head into February and the mad rush of SC's Nonprofit Summit activity, let's indulge in a quick look back.
Most importantly, so many of SC's nonprofit leaders were front and center as...
The Confederate Flag Came Down - In July, we watched with the our nation as the Confederate Flag was removed from the SC statehouse grounds after thousands, myself included, advocated for this historical change following the tragic Mother Emanuel shooting.
Communities Provided Flood Recovery Support - In October, after witnessing historic flooding in South Carolina, nonprofits everywhere sprang into action to support rebuilding recovery efforts for individuals and businesses.
Here at SCANPO, 2015 saw:
New Staff and Expanded Services - In January 2015, Debbie Nelson, founder of DNA Communications, joined our team to lead our Knowledge Network programming, and Sharon Thomas, former nonprofit executive and recipient of the FMU Award for Nonprofit Leadership came on board expanding our member benefits by offering board engagement services.
Hundreds Furthering Their Exemplary Leadership Skills - With a sold-out house at Wild Dunes Resort, we welcomed more than 500 nonprofit leaders to celebrate our nonprofit community and cultivate leadership skills during our 2015 Nonprofit Summit.
Recognition of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville - During the Summit, we lauded Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County for their exemplary governance and management and excellence in implementing SCANPO’s Guiding Principles & Best Practices.
Charity Raffles Made Legal - In April, charitable raffles finally became legal after years of hard work by nonprofits from across the state.
Celebration of the Sector - Our Giving Day training helped more than 400 nonprofits prepare for Giving Day 2015 hosted by community foundations around the state. The Day resulted in national record giving levels and community-wide celebrations of all things nonprofit.
Moving Nonprofit Gathering Following Mother Emanuel Shooting - In June, just days after the horrific shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, our membership reception became a venue for healing, fellowship and unity.
New Board Leadership - July was the beginning of a new fiscal year and Ted Hendry from United Way of Greenville County took the helm of our association's board of directors providing important board leadership.
Increased Fellowship Among Colleagues - With photo booths, jazz bands, and great support from our business partners, local hosts and membership committee members, SCANPO hosted 10 gatherings around the state attended by nearly 1,000 nonprofit leaders.
New and Improved Communication Tools - With the help of our partner, Trio Solutions Inc. (TRIO), SCANPO launched our weekly enewsletter, Nonprofit News; improved our social media efforts; and completely redesigned our website to integrate better with our association member software.
Career ConnectionUsage Grow - SCANPO's job site exceeded 100 job posts for the first time in July, resulting in $121,000 total savings for the 813 members who posted jobs in 2015.
A huge thanks to all who took time to help build our state's nonprofit community through your work with SCANPO in 2015. Together, we make South Carolina a remarkable state, doing incredible work.
Now on to 2016. See you in Spartanburg for the Nonprofit Summit in just a few short weeks!
Posted By Tim Delaney, National Council of Nonprofits,
Monday, January 18, 2016
In the minds of most Americans, the image of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is of a man standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial delivering one of the finest speeches the world has ever heard.
While we normally focus on his mesmerizing cadence and inspiring words, we neglect to consider that he stood there not as just a great orator, but as the president of the nonprofit Southern Christian Leadership Conference and minister of a nonprofit Baptist church, surrounded by leaders of hundreds of nonprofits who had successfully rallied more than a quarter million Americans to participate peacefully in the 1963 March on Washington to advocate for people.
Dr. King’s astounding rhetorical gifts will continue to inspire generations to come. But equally important to the event’s success that particular day was how Dr. King and other nonprofit leaders advanced their nonprofits’ missions of helping people by flooding the streets of D.C. with a then-unprecedented number of individuals, forcing federal officials to begin paying attention to the power of the convictions of the American people.
This week, as we listen to Dr. King’s immortal “I Have a Dream” speech, I urge us all to reflect on the power that nonprofits can yield when advocating to advance their missions to help people.
When doing so, let’s also reflect on the power of a network, as seen by those working closely with Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to make the March on Washington a success, particularly these luminaries of the civil rights movement: James L. Farmer, Jr., of the Congress of Racial Equality,(now Congressman) John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Whitney Young of the National Urban League.
Their courageous leadership demonstrated that when ignored individuals come together through nonprofits, they can be heard, and when separate nonprofits come together through nonprofit networks, they and those they serve can be heard even better. Thanks to these and other nonprofit leaders, we know that advocating to advance our missions works, and that working through networks works. In sum: Together, we can!