Montana Nonprofit Association

promoting a strong nonprofit sector in MONTANA

Montana Nonprofit Association Blog

Musings, stories, and resources for the nonprofit sector in Montana.

The View from the Table

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Liz MooreThanks to the collective voice of MNA’s 630 charitable nonprofit members – MNA has recently seen firsthand what it means to have a seat at the policy table at both the state and national levels.   

In Montana:  Just before the bell rang to close out the 2013 legislative session, MNA learned of a decision made not by legislators, but by a district court, that - as it stood - would weaken the integrity of the nonprofit corporate structure and the concept of donor intent in Montana.  

After scrutinizing the details of the case, and in consultation with an attorney, the MNA Board voted for the first time ever to engage in advocacy at the court level. We, along with Montana Community Foundation, joined with the Attorney General’s office in filing a “friend of the court” brief that detailed our concerns with the court decision in a complex case involving the split of a church, and the disposition of assets held by a Foundation associated with the church.   

Here is a summary provided by Larry Johnson, counsel for MNA on the case. The details aren't necessarily recreational reading, but it's worth spending a few minutes on a case that put Montana's nonprofit sector at risk:    

 New Hope Lutheran Ministry v. Faith Lutheran Church of Great Falls, 2014 MT 69 (March 12, 2014). The case arose out of a split in a Church over theological issues with an ensuing dispute over which Church group owned the church property. As part of the case, the Trial Court awarded property held by the Church Foundation to one of the Church groups even though the group had not proved any established legal theory for doing so. . . Based on language in the Foundation's Articles of Incorporation, the Trial Court held there was some heretofore unidentified type of fiduciary duty/trust obligation, and ordered the assets in the Foundation be transferred to one of the Church groups.  Both groups appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.  

The appeal caught the attention of Kurt Alme, President and General Counsel of Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation who brought it to the attention of MNA and MCF.  Kurt and Liz Moore then met with the Attorney General’s Office. They expressed their concern that contributors to certain charities and community foundation funds would be reluctant to contribute unless the Courts would treat independent charitable organizations as independent, protected by the statutes under which they were organized.  They also expressed their concern that if the Court affirmed the Trial Court decision without understanding the significance of this new unidentified legal theory, that theory may be able to be used in a lawsuit against a nonprofit (or even a for profit corporations or other entity) reaching any parent, subsidiary or other related entity.  Assistant Attorney General Jon Bennion filed an Amicus Brief, in which MNA and MCF joined. 

The Supreme Court agreed with the Attorney General and reversed the Trial Court on the Foundation issue, noting among other issues: “As amicus Attorney General argues, to permit the particularly stated charitable purposes of a nonprofit corporation to be malleably converted into an express trust for unnamed beneficiaries, and then its property transferred outright to those beneficiaries could negate much of the substance of the Nonprofit Corporation Act.”  The Court decided that the language in the Articles of Incorporation, and  the fact the Church donated money to the Foundation, were not enough to justify the Trial Court’s decision. The Supreme Court’s decision is lengthy and covers many issues that were beyond those of concern to the Attorney General, MNA, and MCF, but even the limited issues of concern to us were discussed at some length by the Court.  Those of us who are involved in the Nonprofit sector, who rely on the independent existence of nonprofit organizations to carry out their missions and the intentions of those who financially support the organizations, will be referring to this case for guidance for many years.    

. . .The Attorney General was most helpful in helping secure a decision that follows well established  law that protects nonprofit organizations, and preserves the intent of donors that contribute to those charities.

To all MNA members, when we met with the Attorney General’s office to discuss this case, we said, “This will harm the sector.” Due in large part to MNA's almost 650 members, our statement generated attention and action. Through your membership in MNA, you had a seat at the table and it made a difference. Thank you and well done.   


In Washington DC:  For the past several years – including 2012 and 2013 – many of you responded to various requests for information related to nonprofit/government contracts. Your efforts are paying off. Armed with information provided by you and your colleagues across the nation, the National Council of Nonprofits has been working closely with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington DC. As a direct result of our collective efforts, in December, 2013 the federal government announced new guidelines that significantly overhaul the way government works with nonprofits in the grantmaking and contracting process.   

Here are the key points of the new guidance as summarized by the National Council of Nonprofits:  

Indirect Costs: The OMB Guidance explicitly requires pass-through entities (typically states and local governments receiving federal funding) to either honor a nonprofit’s negotiated indirect cost rate if one already exists or negotiate a rate in accordance with federal guidelines. Nonprofits will be empowered to elect an automatic indirect cost rate of 10 percent of modified total direct costs (MTDC), which can be used indefinitely if they so choose, or negotiate a higher rate. 

Direct Costs: The guidance makes clear that, in certain circumstances, program administration (e.g., secretarial staff dedicated to a specific program) can be reported as direct, rather than as indirect, costs. 

Audit Rules: The new guidance also raises the threshold for a single audit (A-133) requirement from $500,000 to $750,000, thus reducing costs for smaller contracts and grants. 

Streamlining Federal Guidance: The new guidance consolidates and streamlines eight OMB circulars, including OMB Circulars 110 and 122 that relate to charitable nonprofits. As a result, applications and reporting will be standardized and streamlined to provide more consistency across various federal agencies. 

Rick Cohen of the Nonprofit Quarterly said, “The new OMB guidelines reflect the continuing pressure that nonprofit advocacy organizations, in this case epitomized by the National Council of Nonprofits, have put on the federal government to remove impediments that make life difficult for nonprofit grantees and contractors.”  

Thank you MNA members. Via your membership in MNA you are affiliate members of the National Council of Nonprofits; through them you have been at the table with OMB as these changes have taken shape. Not only have you offered your stories and perspectives through surveys and e-mails, but you have joined your collective voice with members of the larger nonprofit community. Congratulations on the results! 

  

Summertime Collections

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Liz Moore Summer is a time for collecting: seashells, river rocks, and vacation memorabilia.Though we still have two weeks of summer in front of us, I’m beginning to sort through the various interesting stones, photos, and souvenirs I’ve gathered in the last three months. In the same way, the MNA team has selected a collection of the best nonprofit reading and resources we’ve seen this summer. I am passing our list along trusting you’ll find one or two keepers in the bunch.

Speaking of collections, we’ve put together a phenomenal collection of speakers, workshops and activities for the 2013 MNA Conference.  If you haven’t looked closely at the agenda, stop reading this and immediately go here to check it out. Attending the MNA Conference is valuable on several levels: 

  1. The quality of speakers is unmatched. Through the support of our sponsors, we are able to bring national leaders to Montana while keeping the price affordable. You will not find a better return on investment for your professional development dollars.
  2. We’ve responded to requests for new sessions. The schedule of breakout sessions is designed to meet the training needs of first time conference attendees as well as returning participants.
  3. The chance for Montana’s nonprofits to network on this scale exists only at the MNA Conference. This is the opportunity you don't want to miss!
  4. Your sustainability as a leader has a direct bearing the sustainability of your nonprofit organization. Refueling is not a luxury. Click here for the next fueling station.

I hope the last two weeks of summer are just right for you. I look forward to saying hello at the Conference.

February 2013

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Nonprofit Day in the Rotunda - 2013 

by Liz Moore, Executive Director

Liz MooreWow! What a showing at Nonprofit Day at the Capitol on January 23rd! We at MNA really only have one thing to say - but we're saying it eight different ways: 

Thank you to the 120 nonprofit professionals who participated in what turned out to be a superb (and packed out) lunchtime event. From all of us in Helena, thank you to so many who drove in from out of town.

Thank you for sending your photos. Our slideshow with more than 200 photos of nonprofits of every stripe kept the diversity, breadth and depth of the sector in front of us in a vivid and visual way throughout the day.

Thank you for inviting legislators to lunch. Even if you couldn't be here, clearly they received the message. We ran out of food somewhere between 350-400 people. . .which reminds me. . .

Thank you to Chili O’Brien’s for doing such a great job with lunch. Seriously – who could have ignored the smell of lasagna wafting into the rafters of the Rotunda?

Thank you to MNA’s newest staff member* Gail Tronstad (formerly Brockbank) for coordinating Nonprofit Day at the Capitol. *More on that later!

Thank you to the members of the Senate Taxation Committee who passed the Charitable Endowment Tax Credit unanimously out of committee first thing in the morning on Nonprofit Day. Whoop-whoop.

Thank you to M&R Strategic Services for providing excellent advocacy training following the morning’s events.

And finally - thank you to those who took time to fill out the evaluation. We appreciate and will use your feedback as we look ahead to Montana Nonprofit Day at the Capitol in 2015

I would say more but I believe we promised to say just one thing: truly, thank you.

November 2012

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Tell the Nonprofit Story

by Liz Moore, Executive Director

Liz Moore, Executive Director of the Montana Nonprofit AssociationDid you know that although Montana ranks in the bottom five states for income, our charitable giving is ranked at 23 among all states?*

This simple statistic speaks volumes about the value Montanans place on philanthropy: We are generous, and we have proof, which has become more important than ever before in light of recent events regarding the federal charitable deduction.

Philanthropy is currently facing what might be the gravest threat in its history as policy makers search for ways to create a rapid "down payment" in order to thwart sequestration. We learned last week that some policymakers, including Senator Baucus, are seriously considering capping total deductions, including the charitable deduction. This would functionally eliminate the charitable deduction.

In our letter to congressional delegates last week, MNA articulated the threat as we see it, and we backed it up with the briefest narrative about the value of generosity in Montana: Montanans value philanthropy in word and deed, and we have proof. This is part of Montana's unique nonprofit story.

Nonprofits understand storytelling, especially this time of year. Whether we are choosing a photo for a remittance envelope, inserting a particular quote from a constituent into an appeal letter, or pulling out a single statistic from the mountains of data available to us, we are hoping donors and other partners will hear our story - that they will see past our organizational structure and into the soul of our efforts.  In short, this is the ultimate aim of transparency to ensure we allow an unobstructed, crystal clear view of the work we're doing and its value in our communities. In this spirit, we have a request to make of you.

Tomorrow we will be sending an action alert with some rapid response tools that allow you to quickly relate your own story about the charitable deduction. Responding will take a few minutes during a busy time, but your comments will carry the day, giving life to statistics. We are all inundated with opportunities to give feedback and respond to surveys, and we at MNA recognize, especially during this time of year, every moment is precious. Our request is not made lightly.

As a member of Montana's nonprofit sector, will you take a few minutes this week to advocate for the charitable deduction. There are several options floating around that impact the deduction. We are not making a recommendation or proposing a solution. We are simply stating that this particular measure would be a worst case scenario for the charitable deduction. Please click here for more information and to get a head start on responding.

* Percentage of adjusted gross income on returns with itemized deductions, National Center on Charitable Statistics, 2012.

 

 

October 2012

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Advocacy and the Nonprofit Scope of Work

by Liz Moore, Executive Director

 

Liz picAs nonprofits, we are as different as we are alike. Our missions vary in scope,  our operations budgets range from almost nothing to multi-milion dollar corporations, we are "all-volunteer" organizations as well as businesses with hundreds of staff.  But no matter our differences we share this in common: regardless of the election results, we must be about the business of exercising our political voice and influence. Nonprofits are the core of civil society. We have not only the legal right but the obligation to advocate for our cause and on behalf of our constituents.

We may think advocacy is the domain of the largest, most experienced nonprofits, but I recently heard something quite different.

An associate who works in government affairs recently explained to me that even a few years ago, political influence resided in the capitol hallways and inevitably involved lobbyists. Not great news for small organizations with no budget for lobbying. He went on to say that policy makers are now much more tuned into the voice of the local community. His message was this: no matter what the elections bring on November 6, we have our work cut out for us ensuring the nonprofit voice is heard loud and clear after the elections.

Our colleague and friend Robert Eggers (DC Kitchen and CForward) recently wrote this about the election outcomes, "Between escalating costs associated with care for the rapidly aging baby boomer generation, the sluggish growth of the GNP, nagging unemployment, a reshuffling of the global economy and the specter of $1.2 trillion in mandatory, across-the-board, cuts over the next ten years; no matter our election outcome, the next President will have to make many tough choices . . .This is why America's real "social welfare" nonprofits -- the hundreds of thousands of direct-service, locally based, tax paying charities that uphold the great American social contract -- need to step up and engage candidates at every turn. These essential organizations must compel candidates to explore the economic ramifications of their visions.” (Italics added)
 
Advocacy is part of the nonprofit scope of work. Not all of us will lobby - but we can all educate and inform. In this issue of MTc3 we offer advocacy tools and resources we hope you'll find helpful. If you want to know more about MNA's policy agenda or if you have a question about what's legal and what's not for 501(c)3s and lobbying - call or email me. I'd love to hear about your work and fill you in on our efforts. In the meantime, thank you for all you're doing to make our democratic society brilliant with the countless and varied expressions of the will of the people.

Many missions - one voice.

 

September

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A Message from past Keynote Speaker Robert Egger

by Robert Egger, Founder and President of D.C Central Kitchen

 

I've had theRobert Egger great fortune to make multiple visits to Montana, and I've worked directly with the Montana Nonprofit Association for many years. THIS state association has done amazing work to help legislators know more about the work you do, the economic impact your work has, and how much treasure you bring to the Treasure State.

Now, more than ever, as budgets are tightened and cuts must be made, MNA member organizations and their employees and boards need to work together to insure that candidates and incumbents alike understand that nonprofit organizations are an equal part of the economic engine that makes Montana thrive.

Last year, I was in Missoula, and I happened to walk past the Chamber of Commerce. In their window was a sign touting the reasons that businesses should consider moving to the city. I was excited to see the work of nonprofits on the list. It included higher education, arts and culture and quality healthcare, as well as clean water and outdoor activities as motivators. Yet, the word "nonprofit" wasn't mentioned. That's because there's a disconnect between what people - including legislators - think we do (good work), and what we accomplish (smart business).

Afterwards, I decided the time had come to act, so I penned this op-ed in the Huffington Post, titled "No Profits Without Nonprofits", and launched CForward, an advocacy organization dedicated to championing the role that nonprofits - America's 3rd biggest employer - play in every state.

Almost 50,000 proud sons and daughters of Montana work at a nonprofit...that's over 14% of the state's workforce. You have the opportunity, at this weeks annual conference, to meet candidates face to face and ask them how they would partner with you to make Montana stronger, create more jobs and attract more investment.

Don't think your voice doesn't count. It does.

Don't think you can't ask questions of candidates. You can.

Don't think you can't make the time to go. You MUST.

And don't think MNA can do it without you. They can't.

As a colleague and a friend, I implore you to head to Helena and help your leaders see that Montana's nonprofits are proud partners, equally dedicated to to the future of the state.

View the full agend and register

September 2012(3)

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Your Mission:  An Insufficient Strategy Screen

by Jeanne Bell, CEO of CompassPoint and keynote speaker for the 2012 MNA Conference

 

Jeanne BellAs nonprofits respond to major changes in both funding and expectations of their impact, their sustainability depends upon the quality of organizational decision-making. What programming do we keep? What programming needs to change radically? What programming do we leave behind? But the go-to screen in our sector for what to do and not do—the organization’s mission—is a wildly insufficient screen. Your mission is relevant for keeping things out of your business model, but it is frankly irrelevant for keeping things in. And it’s with what to keep in the model that most of us our struggling. If my mission is to end domestic violence in my community, that will keep me from developing a cancer screening program, but it won’t tell me whether I should keep running a shelter for which the government doesn’t adequately reimburse me. What we are challenged by is not mission alignment, but sustainability—achieving great impact towards our mission in a financially viable way.

This is why I no longer begin strategy formation processes with mission, vision, and values. In the vast majority of cases, those are not the strategic questions in play. Instead, we begin strategy formation with a set of deeper questions about how well every programmatic and fundraising activity is currently performing from both an impact and a financial perspective. Once every board and staff person has that understanding of the current business model, they are in a much better position to consider what strategic decisions need to be made in service of mission fulfillment.

We need good habits and practices in our organizations for making strategic decisions in real time. While fulfilling our missions is what drives our work, the hard choices about what mix of programs will do that in a high impact and financially viable way are not made any easier by conflating mission with strategy.

 

Join Jeanne Bell for her pre-conference workshop, Nonprofit Sustainability Clinic: Making Decisions for Financial Viability.  Jeanne will also give the opening keynote address, Sustainability:  A Framework for Tackling the Greatest Leadership ChallengeRegister here.

 

September 2012(2)

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Conference Session Highlight- Enhancing the Client Relationship with Charitable Planned Gifts

By John Eastman, Vice President of Development, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation

 

John EastmanNow is the time for Montana donors to take advantage of a unique opportunity to increase their tax savings and help build long-term stability in their favorite Montana nonprofit organizations through the Endowment Tax Credit.  Since 1997, Montana has allowed its taxpayers to receive income tax relief for charitable planned gifts to Montana charitable endowments.  A charitable planned gift, such as a Charitable Gift Annuity, Charitable Trust, or Reserved Life Estate can generate up to $10,000 of state income tax relief to individual taxpayers or up to $20,000 for married couples.

The Montana Endowment Tax Credit will expire at the end of 2013.  A new administration and new legislative session make the future of the Endowment Tax Credit uncertain.  Our current tax year may well be the last chance to take advantage of this extraordinary dollar-for-dollar write off against state income taxes.  Montana donors will soon be contemplating their year-end giving and tax savings opportunities.  I encourage MNA members and their directors, accountants, lawyers, and financial advisors to refresh their knowledge of the Endowment Tax Credit and learn the many advantageous ways in which it can be generated by attending the Enhancing Client Relationships with Charitable Planned Gifts continuing education seminar at MNA Conference 2012 on September 20th.  Click here to register.  
 
Historic Tax-Free Income

Charitable Gift Annuities have long been an important planned giving opportunity for Montana donors and an important development program for Montana nonprofits.  Gift annuities generate lifetime fixed income to donors.  The gift annuity rate guidelines suggested by the American Council on Gift Annuities have recently stayed above other plummeting interest rates.  Now is the time for Montana donors to take advantage of the best gift annuity rates available. Year-end 2012 offers a unique window of opportunity for Montana donors.  The Applicable Federal Rate which is used in the calculation of a gift annuity is at an unprecedented low.  Low can be a good thing because it causes a greater portion of annuity income to be tax-free! I encourage MNA members, nonprofit board members, and professional advisors to learn the many versatile applications for Charitable Gift Annuities by attending the Enhancing Client Relationships with Charitable Planned Gifts continuing education seminar at MNA Conference 2012 on September 20th. 

 

September 2012

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Closing Plenary- No Bragging and Nothing Boring: Effective Ways to Share Your Impact

by Kivi Leroux Miller, President, Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com, Lexington, NC

 

 See the newest conference blog from Kivi!Kivi Blog

Kivi Leroux Miller will be presenting No Bragging and Nothing Boring:  Effective Ways to Share Your Impact as the closing plenary at the 2012 MNA Conference.

Supporters want to know how their gifts of time and money are used before they'll give again.  They also want to know that they- through support of your organization- are changing the world for the better.  Are you meeting these needs, without bragging or boring them?  During the closing plenary, Kivi Leroux Miller will show you how to effectively communicate your impact year-round in ways that make your supporters feel like the heroes they are.  You'll see how nonprofits are reporting results in creative, innovative ways, using both new technology and traditional communications channels.  You'll leave inspired to talk about your work in new ways, which in turn will inspire your supporters to do even more for your cause.

Join Kivi for her extended friday workshop So What and Who Cares:  Making Communications More Relevant for Today Friday September 21st from 9:15am-12:45pm.  Register for the conference here.

August 2012(2)

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A Spectacular, Colossal and Amazing Back-To-School Event

 By Liz Moore, Executive Director


Liz picHow can we already be back to school? Our Montana summers are so precious and fleeting; they evaporate almost as soon as we get the hang of relaxing!

Here at MNA, we‘re not necessarily thinking about backpacks, notebooks and textbooks, but we are preoccupied with education! In just 23 days we’ll be hosting an exceptional professional development event, MNA’s 11th Annual Conference, “Nonprofit Impact: So What’s your So What?”

The word Impact packs a wallop!  It calls to mind vivid images of comic book covers splashed with words like Spectacular, Colossal, Amazing, and Super-Hero. But in fact, we all know nonprofit impact is much less about the statement we make than it is about the difference we make. Nonprofit impact is not a “flash in the pan” phenomenon.  Rather, sustained impact is built on practices like setting a clear intent; ensuring capable, mission-driven leadership; commitment to laser focused planning and operations; a rigorous and lively learning culture; and wholly communicating our story. We’ve built the 2012 conference around these concepts, bringing a stellar gathering of national and Montana speakers to our 3-day MNA “classroom”. The MNA Conference is truly the premier nonprofit gathering in the northwest, and this year is going to be extraordinary, perhaps even “spectacular, colossal and amazing”!

On another back-to-school note, MNA has been fortunate to partner with the University of Montana for several years in their efforts to ensure nonprofit professionals have access to higher education in nonprofit leadership and administration. The Office of Civic Engagement, under Dr. Andrea Vernon’s leadership, is committed to responding to the evolving needs of Montana’s nonprofit leaders. To that end, will you take a moment to respond to two questions Dr. Vernon posed to me earlier this summer?  1) Is there a preference for nonprofit leaders to have a graduate degree?  2) If so, what is the preferred degree: Master’s of Public Administration, Master’s in Nonprofit Management, Master’s in Business Administration, Master’s in Communication, or Other?  Click here to respond, and thank you.  

A final word – the MNA Conference is about so much more than education. Although the heart of the MNA conference is in the learning, its “soul” is the almost 400 nonprofit leaders who gather for a brief, enriching sabbatical. Just like in elementary school, excellent curriculum is paramount– but the friendships, conversation, laughter and fun are what we look forward to most.

We at MNA truly look forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Till then, enjoy summer’s glorious last days. 

 

August 2012

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So Here's my So What! 

 by Brad Robinson, Member Services Director


Brad
The nights are beginning to get cooler which brings me to my favorite time of the work year:  the MNA Conference.  As MNA's Member Services Director, I have spoken with most of you at some point; many of you I talk with several times a year.  While our one-on-one connections during the year are excellent, the conference is a rare opportunity for me to see 400 of you interacting: networking, laughing, sharing, and learning.  Once a year I am immersed in a sea of members - and I love it.

Why is the MNA conference important? On the one hand, the conference fulfills aspects of our organizational bylaws and mission it convenes all of us for our annual Membership Meeting and  provides (in aggregate) a few thousand hours of education and training.  But from my perspective it is so much more.  Nonprofits bring substance to the fabric of society.  We are passionate about our work.  And when a lot of us get together, the energy is palpable. Through the conference we learn from statewide and nationally acclaimed nonprofit leaders.  We have occasion to realize that none of us is alone in our work.  We enjoy an interlude that gives us time and space to share stories, network, and celebrate our good work with friends both old and new.

At every MNA conference, I watch folks as their focus expands from "nonprofit mission" to  mission and "nonprofit sector".  I see the light-bulb moments as leaders find their diverse peer groups - complete with common experiences and challenges despite varying missions.  The MNA Conference offers an energetic  mix of raw idealism tempered and groomed by experiential wisdom.  It's an event where those who are ready meet and learn from those who can help them move to new levels of success.

The 2012 MNA conference is about impact - how we plan for it, gauge it, and tell our story about it.  Your impact on me is straightforward.  You inspire me to do the best I can to help you succeed at your mission.  The energy at the conference rejuvenates me and others have told me they feel it, too.  Many people work behind the scenes all year long to make the MNA conference the biggest and best convening in the northwest.  I hope you will plan to attend, and I hope you will help spread the word about the value of this event.  I look forward to seeing you in Helena and in the meantime, keep up the great work .  You are making a difference.

 

May 2012 eNews

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Renewal and Realignment

 by Liz Moore, Executive Director  

Last week the MNA staff and board of directors spent a day in conversation realigning ourselves with MNA’s five year business and strategic plan.  Foundational to the plan – which was crafted in 2010 – were the hopes, needs and wishes for the nonprofit sector as expressed by MNA members and partners. Shortly after the business plan was rolled out, we all watched the recession alter the external environment and then, more recently, MNA’s executive transition brought internal change.  While these events have certainly impacted MNA, our board/staff dialogue gave us the chance to reconnect with our strategic trajectory – which has held remarkably strong even in the midst of change.  The retreat was a chance to once again articulate the MNA bedrock:  LizMoore 

  • We continue to be about the members – Montana’s 501 (c) 3 organizations. You are the driver for everything we do.
  • We direct our resources and activities toward a single high aim: to strengthen Montana’s charitable nonprofit sector.
  • We believe more than ever in the power and necessity of our collective voice; whether we are heightening public awareness, providing sector research and education, or engaging in advocacy,  we are fully invested in developing and supporting the nonprofit seat at the table – particularly in the public policy arena.
  • We are grounded in partnership; we believe the nonprofit sector is only as strong as our connections with one another as well as with our public and private partners.  

There’s nothing new or earth shattering here – and that’s what was so reassuring. Yes, the timeline we laid out some time ago has altered somewhat, but the MNA fundamentals are absolutely solid. Even in the context of significant change, our strategic direction is spot on. The board/staff conversation was rich, thoughtful, and punctuated by laughter - a great setting for renewal and realignment.

Guest Blog: National Volunteer Week - Apr 15-21

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FB-Volunteers  

Shout Out for Volunteers!

 by Jono McKinney, Board Chair, MNA  

Montanans are remarkable for their generosity in time and talent. Over a third of our citizens participate in our community life as volunteers sharing over 33 million hours in service every year to strengthen our communities. The Volunteering in America report values this at $714 million in services contributed. What an asset to our state economy.  More importantly, what a measure of our character as Montanans.

April 15-21 marks National Volunteer Week.  This celebration reminds us to thank all those volunteers who help our organizations in so many ways by guiding our boards of directors, serving as mentors, showing up to help with special events, or quietly stuffing envelopes.  Also across our state, over 9,000 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps participants are making a difference through more than 900 project sites. These folks add immeasurably to the strength of our organizations and the vitality of our communities.

The 2012 theme for National Volunteer Week is “Celebrating People in Action.” This begins with us, taking action to lead by example with our own service, and encouraging others to join with us in sharing their talent and time toward positive solutions to our communities needs.   Albert Schweitzer, the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, reminds us of the transformative power of serving: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought out and found how to serve.”  Service can be so simple, starting with a greeting to our neighbor and affirmation that we are neighbors working together for better communities.

Thank you for serving, and thanks to all of you in our Montana nonprofit sector who leverage your passion, talents, wisdom, hearts, and muscles to make Montana healthier, safer, and smarter.

Jono McKinney is MNA Board Chair
and Executive Director of the Montana Conservation Corps

MNA Conference - Nonprofit Impact

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Nonprofit Impact: So what's your "so what?"

 by Liz Moore, Executive Director, MNA  

I am extremely pleased to announce MNA’s 2012 Conference this September 19-21 focusing on Nonprofit Impact. As nonprofits today, we must focus on more than how many people we serve, how many events we sponsor, or how many "friends" we have.  Increasingly, donors, policymakers, volunteers, and other stakeholders are asking: “So what? How does your work impact our community, our lives, our future?”  No doubt your work is making an impact, but do you know how to identify it, plan for it, measure it, and demonstrate it to stakeholders?
 
For nonprofit organizations, impact is a word that elicits rich, lively conversation – going right to the heart of organizational purpose. The concept of impact has increasingly taken hold in the nonprofit lexicon as we are asked to become more and more adept at articulating and measuring effectiveness. In short, making an impact has always been important. Today identifying, evaluating and communicating that impact are essential components of nonprofit sustainability.
 
The optimistic desire to make a difference is part of our nonprofit DNA. We are mission-oriented; we come to our work with a particular idea of the unique contribution we want to make. At MNA we literally have front row seats that allow us to see so much good unfolding in Montana because of the work of nonprofits. We also recognize the increasing emphasis being placed on strengthening nonprofit impact. At September’s conference, these two vantage points will come together as we present opportunities to learn how to imagine, achieve, and share our impact.

I hope you will join us as we bring this topic to life – using a generous brush to color every aspect of the conference with vibrant, dynamic conversation on nonprofit impact. So what’s your “so what?”

MNA in the news

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'Build Montana' takes root on Web

 Helena Independent Record Editorial, used by permission | Originally posted: Dec 15, 2011 | Read on Helenair.com  

As the days wind down in 2011, many Helenans once again take up the giving spirit — not only the giving of gifts under the tree in 10 days’ time, but giving from the checkbook before the calendar turns to January. For people who want to find worthy causes to support but aren’t sure which ones best match their own values, we suggest perusing a new Web portal established this year by the Montana Nonprofit Association. With a few clicks, users can find organizations in Helena or anywhere in the state doing the kind of work that they will feel best supporting.

Build Montana, at www.buildmontana.org , is a terrific resource for people looking to donate, volunteer or simply learn more about the state’s thousands of nonprofits. With this season’s emphasis on donating to organizations before Dec. 31, the page for each nonprofit in the state includes a “Donate Now” button, so procrastinators can wait until the last minute and still give in time to receive the charitable deduction on next year’s taxes.
 
But there’s more to the site than the ability to offer financial support. As much as anything, the site aims to build awareness and relationships between organizations and Montanans who are able and willing to help in any way.

“As we were creating Build Montana, we asked the question, ‘What kind of tool could we create to help the public understand who the nonprofit sector is and how to connect with them?’ ” said Patty White, MNA’s marketing director.
 
The MNA fields general inquiries about nonprofits in the state all the time: How many nonprofits are there in Yellowstone County? Where can I volunteer in Cascade County? And so on. Build Montana was formally launched at the group’s annual conference in September, but the site was actually operating in May, and with no publicity at all received a fair amount of traffic from people looking for ways to help in the aftermath of the spring floods that devastated parts of the state.

The site provides a modicum of financial information so people can see how large organizations’ budgets are. For more detailed information, users should visit GuideStar (www.guidestar.org), a much more extensive compilation of financial data for nonprofits across the country, compiled from the groups’ IRS filings.
 
If you’re using Build Montana to search by ZIP code, enter “596**” instead of any of the specific codes in our area, for instance, since some groups use the common 59601, while others have the P.O. Box-specific 59624, and searching for either of those will yield incomplete results.

Many of us already have our favorite groups and charities at this time of year. But for those new to the area, those looking for a new group to support, or those looking for someplace to volunteer, Build Montana can help point us in the right direction. It’s good for the nonprofit community, and ultimately we hope it’s good for Montana.

Copyright 2011 helenair.com. 

Employee Management Webinar Series

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Investigating Employee Complaints: 10 Common (and dangerous) Mistakes

 by Teresa Geremia-Chart, MNA Organizational Development Director 

Thanks to Len Stanton of Associated Employers in Billings who presented our Fall, 3-part Employee Management:  Most Asked Employer Questions Webinar Series.   All of the webinars provided nonprofit managers with compliance information and strategies for practicing excellent employee management.  

 

During this week’s webinar, Investigating Employee Complaints, we learned how often supervisors fail to take immediate and corrective action in response to employee complaints.  Most issues in the office are not witnessed first-hand by supervisors, so supervisors must investigate, which can be tricky to ensure that whatever decision is made is supported by the evidence collected and documented, and by the process used for the investigation.  And, no, not investigating is not an option.  As with the current issue at Penn State, ignoring a complaint will eventually come back to hurt you and possibly others.

I found the 10 Most Common Mistakes Made When Conducting Employee Investigations (and correct action) most informative.  Are any of the following mistakes familiar to your experience?

1.  Failure to get input from the person the complaint is about
    
It’s not sufficient to gather information only from the accusers; you must also interview the accused.

2. Failure to get input from the complaining employee
    Whereas a passing comment from an accuser may be sufficient to launch an investigation, a formal interview of
    the
 accuser must also be conducted.

3. Shortcutting the investigation
    Take the time to interview ALL witnesses to the incident.

4. Dragging out the investigation
    Resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

5Terminate now, investigate later
    If enough initial evidence is present, suspend the accused employee without pay until the investigation is complete if you
    must

6. Failure to close the loop
    Instead, be decisive one way or the other and report the outcome (not the details) back to the accuser.

7. No "second set of eyes"
    Be sure to have another person join you when interviewing all parties; one person records (takes notes), the other asks
    questions

8. Inadequate or flawed documentation
    Maintain clear and concise written documentation of each conversation and decision.

9. Failure to protect privacy
    Only share details of the issue with HR, your executive leadership, and/or your legal counsel.

10. Requiring "face-to-face" confrontation
    It is not a good idea to bring the accuser/accused together to try and “work it out” or for interviews.

 

Conference Blog: Board Governance – Why It Matters

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Don’t Overlook Oversight:  Board Governance – Why It Matters

Guest Blog by Kim McKelvey, Executive Director, ALPS Foundation Services    

To be a results and growth-oriented nonprofit board of directors, it just isn’t enough to congregate and show support for the mission of the organization. An effective board should guide the organization at a strategic level. Before a board can do this, it must have its own clearly-defined model of governance, set roles and responsibilities for its board members, and guiding principles that lead toward ultimate organizational goals.

Governance allows a board to move beyond maintenance mode to a place of setting and reaching strategic initiatives and growing the organization in a positive, mission-driven way.  It begins with very basic and clear fundamentals.
KimMcKelvey
  • Unifying the board on the mission, vision, and values of the nonprofit
  • Knowing the impact the nonprofit is trying to make
  • Developing clear-cut roles for governing board members
  • Ensuring the board understands and effectively undertakes its governance responsibilities 
  • Creating and monitoring a strategic plan 

Board governance (or lack thereof) can influence the entire organization – positively or negatively. Governance has many arms and thus many touch points throughout the organization. These appendages can be working together efficiently and effectively or they can be duplicating efforts. Worse yet, they can be sedentary. These arms need a strong, centralized brain to help them maximize impact.

In my session, “Getting It Right: Excellence in Governance,” I will discuss how these fundamentals can be implemented and how the well-governed board can go on to truly influence the success of the entire organization.

I would encourage those interested in this topic to also consider attending a pre-conference workshop on Wednesday, September 28.  Peggy Owens and Terry Profata from Sage Solutions Nonprofit Consulting and Bonnie Sachatello Sawyer, the Executive Director of Hopa Mountain, will present “Governance: Creating Boards that Lead.”  This workshop explores how to form and maintain a governing body that promotes a healthy and successful nonprofit organization.  For more information about the pre-conference workshop, click here .

Also on Wednesday, the State Bar of Montana’s Nonprofit Law Section will present a workshop sponsored by ALPS:  “Legal Issues Related to Representing and Managing Tax-Exempt Organizations.”  The workshop will discuss board oversight, including the legal implications of board service and board governance and management.  An incredible line-up of speakers, including Montana’s Attorney General Steve Bullock, will speak on a variety of topics including the legal liability of board members and how to properly manage and invest endowment funds.  The event is approved for 6.5 general continuing legal education credits, including 1.25 ethics credits.  For more information on the Nonprofit Law Section workshop, click here .

Conference Blog: What Nonprofits Need to Know About Social Media

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What Nonprofits Need to Know About Social Media:  do you have A-PIE?

Guest Blog by Chris Syme, Principal, CKSyme.org     

There is no better vehicle for bringing outsiders in than social media. Social media can enhance your ability to tell your story, raise friends, sustain campaign engagement, recruit  volunteers, and deepen just about every process that involves human interaction, including fundraising.

No, social media isn’t a magic pill, nor is it the answer to all your problems. But, it can be a powerful partner in your effort to connect with people. The latest data collected by Pew Internet Research shows that people who use social networking sites (SNS):

ChrisSyme
  • have more close relationships,
  • get more social support than other people,
  • are more politically engaged than most people, and
  • are more likely to revive dormant relationships.

Also, people on social networks are more likely to keep up with close social ties. There’s a world of data and people out there to connect to in real-time. Are you taking advantage of the best channels to reach your stakeholders and build new ones?

Where do you start? Do you jump in, or should you check the depth and temperature of the water first? I recommend you start by building a solid strategy that is based on the goals and mission of your organization. You need A-PIE:

  • Assess: Listen and monitor your audience. Who are they? What are they doing online? Are they creating, monitoring, commenting, posting reviews, recommending to friends? Where are they online? Facebook? Twitter? Blogs? Do they watch videos? Post pictures? Do an internal assessment as well. How much time, resources (people) and money do you have to dedicate to being social? What are your organizational goals? How could social media help you reach them?
  • Plan: Take what you learn above and start to formulate a plan. Who will be in charge? Who can post on your behalf? What are your content guardrails? Who will monitor the channels? What metrics are you going to use to judge your progress? Who will do the training?  Who will write the social media policy and how will it be enforced? How often and where will you post? What channels will you implement first? Second?
  • Implement: Now that you’ve planned the work, work the plan.
  • Evaluate: Always, always, always have a plan to regularly evaluate your progress. Do we need to cut away anything? Tweak? Show me the data.

To find out more about how you can implement an effective social media strategy for your organization, come to the Montana Nonprofit Association Conference in Billings September 28-30. You can find out more about the conference here . I’ll be doing an introductory social media boot camp on Thursday for social media newbies and then a deeper session on Friday on social media strategy that includes managing and building your reputation online, content marketing, and social media optimization. Bring your laptops.  I hope to see you there!

Chris Syme is the Principal of CKSyme.org.  Follow her ongoing blog at www.cksyme.org .

conference blog: Do Nonprofits Really Need Risk Management?

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Do Nonprofits Really Need Risk Management?

Guest Blog by Tom McGree, Director of Enterprise Risk Manager, Anderson ZurMuehlen    

Nonprofits exist for lots of different reasons.  In fulfilling their missions, they encounter many of the same risks for-profit enterprises face, including human resource challenges, safety concerns, data protection issues, premises security threats, training issues, and regulatory hurdles.  The difference is that many nonprofits must deal with these issues with access to only a fraction of the resources available to their for-profit counterparts.

So what can a non-profit do?  The answer is really very simple: make the most of available resources.  That’s certainly not a new concept for non-profits.


Tom McGree

Responding effectively to risk is not about having the newest software or best resources.  It’s about carefully identifying and managing your risks in a consistent, ongoing manner.  Here’s how to start:

1.    Determine what assets (information, materials, people, etc.) you absolutely must have to be able to operate.
 
2.    Take a comprehensive look at what could harm your nonprofit the most.  Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Look at your organization in bite-sized pieces, one at a time, and pay attention to how each piece affects the others.
 
3.    Identify the resources you have at your disposal (including time, experience, relationships, reputation, etc.) to use in solving the problems.  You may not have unlimited cash in the bank, but you do have the resources listed above, plus many others.  Recognize what you do have and take full advantage of it.   
 
4.    Prioritize your risks.
 
5.    Tackle the most important, pressing risk first.  Then move on to the next.

As Brian Tracy has said, “Eat that frog.”  Get the most urgent and important item checked off your “To Do” list, even though you really don’t want to do it.  Then gradually work your way through the rest of your list, beginning with the second, third, and so on biggest challenges.  Monitor your progress so you can celebrate success and make needed course corrections.

You’ll have hiccups along the way.  You’ll also have to deal with unexpected challenges.  Over time, however, you’ll have lower costs, fewer headaches and increased success because you’re staying ahead of the “reaction curve.”  You’ll be moving from disaster recovery to risk management.

For more guidance in managing your risks please join us at the Montana Nonprofit Association’s 2011 annual conference on September 28-20 in Billings, MT.  See www.mtnonprofit.org/conference  for details.  

Tom McGree is the Director of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) with Anderson ZurMuehlen and Co .  The ERM department works with organizations to identify, evaluate and control risk using an array of resources and methods.  Clients see increased long-term success, lower costs of risk, enhanced information from which to make strategic decisions and increased control over the future of their organizations.  

 


 

Financial Management - Guest Blog

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Continuous Self Improvement: Plugging in to the Power of Quickbooks

by Irene Bushnell, Shareholder, Anderson ZurMuehlen   

 IreneBushnell One of the easiest ways to facilitate continuous self improvement is with formal instruction.  Whether it is attending a conference or a seminar, enrolling in a registered class at an accredited school, listening in on a webinar, or watching a self training video, you’ll always walk away with new insights, good information and ways to improve both personally and professionally.

Many organizations use QuickBooks for their accounting software.  It is a wonderful program that can be customized to work with almost any small to mid-sized organization.  But all too often we learn the basics and then never take our software to the next level. 

Anderson ZurMuehlen is proud to offer a conference that helps you Plug In to the Power of QuickBooks! This conference is about teaching organizations how to fully employ the capabilities of this under-utilized software to more efficiently manage accounting processes. It’s about saving you time and frustration, using less paper, and eliminating costly, inefficient, and often manual work-arounds. It’s about exchanging great old habits and ways of doing things for great new ones.  

But this conference is more than that, because we know your job involves more than that. We know you want to improve your accounting skills and learn best practices.  We understand that advanced report writing and exporting and importing data between systems are high priorities for many QuickBooks users in Montana. Our conference presenters will address all of these issues and more.

Benjamin Franklin said “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” We certainly aren’t earning much interest with today’s economy by putting money in the bank so why not invest in training?

I hope you’ll join us for our Fourth Annual Montana QuickBooks Users Conference to be held in May at four different Montana locations.  Visit our website at:  www.azworld.com/pages/seminars.htm  to read about the sessions to be presented at this year’s conference.  MNA nonprofit members receive a discount – type MNA in the registration or write it next to your registration if you are faxing in your registration.  I look forward to seeing you there!

 

Nonprofit Day 2011 Guest Blog

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The Role of Nonprofits in Public Policy Advocacy

by Matt Leow, Consultant, M+R Strategic Services, www.mrss.com   

MattLeow The beginning of Montana’s biennial legislative session is a great time to reflect on the role of nonprofits in public policy advocacy. On January 27, MNA will hold a Nonprofit Day at the Capitol with that very subject in mind.

Those who work in the nonprofit world are often too busy serving clients and carrying out their important missions to pay much attention to the policy realm. But decisions made in Congress, state legislatures and city halls can have a profound impact on our local nonprofits and the people they serve. While some organizations make advocacy and lobbying central to their missions, others shy away from it or even believe that their organizations cannot engage in lobbying.

 Right off the bat, let’s clear up that last part. Nonprofits, whether they are a 501 (c)(3) or a 501 (c)(4) organization, are allowed to engage in lobbying and advocacy – the rules just happen to be a bit tighter for 501 (c)(3) organizations. There is no limit on the amount 501 (c)(4) organizations can spend on lobbying. However, federal law prohibits 501 (c)(3), or charitable organizations, from spending a “substantial part” of their time and money on lobbying activities. That said, charitable organizations are permitted to engage in lobbying as long as they do not exceed the limit. For more information on lobbying limits for 501 (c)(3) organizations, go to http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/eotopicp97.pdf. Since there a few different avenues for 501 (c)(3) organizations to take in regards to the limit on lobbying expenditures, please contact your organization’s attorney before moving forward.

But being engaged in public policy is not strictly about lobbying, a term that refers to asking a decision-maker to vote for or against a specific piece of legislation. Educating decision-makers about an issue is not considered lobbying. Organizations can hold public meetings or distribute reports and other materials to raise awareness about an issue or legislation without crossing the line and having to worry about lobbying expenditures. The IRS website has another helpful article on this area http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=163392,00.html

Every nonprofit has a stake in public policy, whether it’s funding for social services, policies directly related to nonprofit administration or specific policies that fall under an organization’s mission. Much like individual citizens have a civic duty to be informed of our government and participate in our democracy, nonprofits have a similar duty to be engaged. Nonprofit organizations have a unique opportunity to advocate for the people they represent – their clients, members or constituency. In fact, a nonprofit often provides the only voice in the public policy arena for a specific constituency.

Spend some time in the halls of the Capitol in Helena and you will see that certain interests are well-represented (energy companies, insurance companies and the banking industry) while other interests (low-income people, the disabled, or consumers) are often represented by just one or two lobbyists. Chances are your organization has something to contribute to the public policy discussion, and may be the only voice speaking on behalf of your constituency.

But if you can’t be in Helena for the 90-day legislative session every other year, don’t consider yourself out of the game. A lot can be done in our local communities or through correspondence with decision-makers if we take the time to build those relationships. So, think about having coffee with a city council member or a local legislator, host a public forum and invite the mayor or a U.S. senator, or use the media to educate the public and decision-makers about your perspective on the issues and the important work of your organization.

And if all of this sounds exciting to you, please consider attending the MNA Nonprofit Day in Helena on Jan. 27. The day will include an afternoon workshop on this topic: Advocacy Beyond the Capitol Building. For more information, go to http://www.mtnonprofit.org/NonprofitDay/. I hope to see you there.

From the director's desk

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Strengthening the Nonprofit-Government Partnership 

by Brian Magee, MNA Executive Director

 

Brian-eNews

This month saw an interesting convergence of several issues that illustrate why we must work on our relationship with government – by work on, I mean first deepening the understanding amongst policymakers and government officials about what nonprofits do and the role that nonprofits play in delivering essential services, and then actively pursuing policies and practices that strengthen, not weaken, nonprofits and our communities.  In short, nonprofits and government need to work towards turning the relationship we have into a strong partnership for the future.  Anything less is a disservice to our communities in Montana and across this country.

 

I know that some will bristle at the use of the term “partnership” in reference to our relationship with government.   Fair enough.  Yet, consider the following straightforward facts.  First, nearly 30% of all nonprofit revenues come from local, state and federal government sources.  In comparison, less than 1% of nonprofit revenues come from institutional foundations.  Government is a major funder of essential services that are delivered through nonprofits.  Secondly, we are regulated by government everyday in so many ways.  This goes for small “main street” nonprofits all the way up to large nonprofits with multi-million dollar government contracts.  We all know the demands of reporting and compliance at all levels of government because we feel them every day.  Finally, government has the ability, through policies and practices, to spur (or not) charitable giving and private philanthropy through tax incentives and other means.  My sense is that we can do much better on this front and that we’re not getting the bang for the buck that we should expect.  Given these facts, doesn’t it make sense that we work toward a stronger partnership with government?  Aren’t the implications for our communities too great not to do so?

The following developments from the last month suggest that there is much work to do.  Consider:

Government contracting practices – Just this month, the Urban Institute and the National Council of Nonprofits released the findings of the first comprehensive research survey of government contracting practices across the country.  The picture, to put it mildly, isn’t pretty and points to a fundamentally broken system that hurts everyone.  Even Montana, which grades out better than most states on many indicators, is being described as the “least worst” in ongoing discussions about the research results.  There is plenty of data that supports the notion that the system is broken.  And, in this case, everybody loses – those in need of services, nonprofits with contracts, nonprofits without contracts, policymakers, government agencies, taxpayers, and our communities.  Everyone.

Tax exemption issues – If you subscribe to the Nonprofit Quarterly’s daily Nonprofit Newswire, then you know that a day doesn’t go by without a new story of governments proposing and seriously considering new taxes and fees on nonprofits.  All of this despite a sound argument that doing so would likely be counterproductive to the delivery of essential services in our communities.  We in the nonprofit community haven’t done a good job at all of communicating why tax exemption in the first place.  Now, as government budgets are stretched thin and revenues continue to decline, our own inactivity is coming home to roost.  Just in the past few months, the City of Missoula debated a new tax district that would have included nonprofits in the community.  Fortunately, nonprofit leaders in Missoula were able to convince Missoula officials of the problems with this approach.

Basic data and information – For all the reporting and compliance that we’re required to do, our governments know very little about us, but public policy is still implemented that dramatically impacts our work and our communities.  Tim Delaney, CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, is often quoted as saying the federal government can easily tell us how many heads of lettuce were exported in any given year, but the federal government can’t tell us even basic information about how many citizens work for charitable nonprofits.  How can we possibly make good public policy decisions that strengthen nonprofits if this is the case?  The short answer is that we simply can’t.  Just this last week, hundreds of nonprofits lost their tax exempt status in Montana because they had not filed a Form 990 with the IRS in the past three years.   We know that many of these nonprofits were previously exempt from filing and our suspicion is that IRS efforts to reach them fell flat because the IRS itself had old – sometimes decades old – contact information for these nonprofits.  That is a travesty.

In summary - government contracting challenges, new tax and fee proposals, and nonprofits that have lost their tax exempt status.  All in the last month.  All in our own backyard.  All under the Big Sky.

I want to conclude by saying this is not an attack on government.  Nor is it a call for more or less government funding.  This is not a call for this policy or that policy related to charitable giving incentives.  It’s not even a call for more or less government regulation.  This is a call at long last for a conversation amongst partners and a seat at the table with our government.  We simply must improve our relationship with government and we must forge a better partnership for the benefit of the work we do and the communities we serve.  In future columns, I’ll be digging deeper into the issues outlined above - as always, feedback is welcome.

 

MNA Conference 6

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How to Raise a Lot More Money Now

by Stacie Mann, Network for Good

Hello Montana! Network for Good is thrilled to be part of this year’s conference and I personally look forward to meeting as many of you as I can during my sessions on Tuesday at 1:30pm, The Procrastinator's Guide to Year End Fundraising, and on Wednesday at 9:15am, Flipping the Funnel: How Social Media Is Transforming Philanthropy. I promise to bring some energy!

To give you some quick background on Network for Good, we are nonprofit organization that was founded in 2001 by AOL, Yahoo! and Cisco and we are committed to helping donors support their favorite charities online and to enabling charities to attract resources online. At Network for Good, we don't just give you a donate button – we help you make sure people click on it. That's why I am traveling from Washington, DC to Helena, Montana to share some of what we’ve learned to help your organization succeed online during the upcoming fundraising season.

RaiseMoreMoneyNow
  • In advance of my session on fundraising, I wanted to share my favorite new eBook. Some of the best minds in the business came up with 50 creative ideas that you can start using today to raise more money for your cause. In a new eBook, How to Raise A Lot More Money Now, you'll find great ideas from Jeff Brooks, Jocelyn Harmon, Mark Rovner, Kivi Leroux Miller, Beth Kanter, Allison Fine, Nancy Schwartz, Sarah Durham, Chris Forbes, Alia McKee Scott, and Katya Andresen (Network for Good’s CEO and resident marketing maven). More than 14,000 nonprofit professionals have already downloaded their copies.  So what are you waiting for? Get your free copy today! 
  • For those of you interested in social media, I want to share some Viral Fundraising Tips for your nonprofit from our website SixDegrees.org, a site we launched in partnership with Kevin Bacon where everyday 'celebrities' are making a difference. The headline is that you need to surrender control of the message(s) you are used to formulating about your organization and let your supporters spread the word for you. While this may seem scary at first, the outcome can be surprisingly powerful as I plan to demonstrate during my session on Wednesday.

See you soon!

See Stacie at the MNA Conference - Register today.

 

MNA Conference 5

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Getting It Right: Human Resources

by Ruth French, Human Resource Consultant, Associated Employers

I look forward to being back at the MNA Conference again this year.  The conference is always a great opportunity to connect and reconnect with the many organizations across the state that provide such value to the communities they serve.
RuthFrench

The session "Getting It Right: Human Resources" will be a quick-paced overview of how human resources affects your organization.  We will look at the primary functions of HR and the applicable laws and statutes.  This session will provide a basic overview, giving participants a chance to examine where they may need to focus attention in bringing their organization into compliance and possibly pursue further education.  Although human resources can be a complex area, "Getting It Right" can save your organization a lot of time and potentially money in the long run.
 
This session is for anyone interested in learning how to make their organization an "employer of choice" and improving the management of their most valuable resources -- their employees.

 

MNA 2010 Conference 4

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Pre-Conference Session - Strategic Learning:  Getting the Most Out of Evaluation

by Peter York, Senior VP & Dir. of Research, TCC Group

 

Peter York and Jared Raynor will be presenting Strategic Learning: Getting the Most Out of Evaluation at one of MNA's Pre-Conference workshops.
Many evaluations focus heavily on methods, data and recommendations, but results are far-to-infrequently used. This session focuses on how evaluation can serve an ongoing strategic learning process that supports and strengthens a true learning culture toward increasing impact and taking programs/services to scale. Participants will begin to develop learning plans that can satisfy funder demands, internal decision-making, and stakeholder communication and outreach efforts.

 

MNA 2010 Conference 3

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Increase your impact through advocacy, organizing & civic engagement

by Gita Gulati-Partee and Lisa Ranghelli, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

Greetings, Montana nonprofits!  We are excited to see you in a few weeks.  In our session, Making the Case: Increasing Your Impact through Advocacy and Organizing, we’ll discuss strategies that every nonprofit can and should use to benefit your communities and achieve your mission.  Nonprofits are the lifeblood of our democracy – but we can only fulfill that promise if we make full use of our advocacy voice and our ability to organize and mobilize our constituents.

The session will share findings from the recent report Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in the Northwest Region from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).  In Montana, organizations supporting voting reforms, living wages, women’s and children’s health, culturally appropriate education, immigrant rights, environmental protection and clean energy achieved impressive impacts including:

  • Convincing the state to adopt water standards to protect rivers from pollution associated with coal bed methane development.
  • Expanding eligibility for Medicaid and Children’s Health Access Program (CHIP) from 175 percent to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, thereby covering up to 30,000 more children.
  • Winning same-day voter registration and ‘no-fault’ absentee ballots. Increased use of absentee ballots (29 percent in 2006 and 43 percent in 2008) has contributed to higher voter turnout rates in Montana in recent elections (64 percent in 2006 and 74 percent in 2008).

Leaders from Montana Human Rights Network and Montana Women Vote, which were featured in the study, will share transferable lessons for how to accomplish your organization’s mission and increase your impact through advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement. We’ll also discuss how to make the case to funders. As you’ve probably experienced, many grantmakers can be reluctant to engage in policy matters despite the tremendous impact such activity can have. Informed and empowered nonprofits can educate and move funders – thus influencing the flow of philanthropic investments and increasing resources needed to achieve the social change impacts you seek. 

Throughout Montana and the nation, nonprofits are activating their advocacy voice and achieving impressive impacts that transform people’s lives.  We hope you will join us for this session – and join in the movement to increase nonprofit and philanthropic impact.  See you in Helena!


Lisa Ranghelli is director of the Grantmaking for Community Impact Project of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Gita Gulati-Partee is founder and president of Open Source Leadership Strategies. Lisa and Gita have authored/co-authored reports from the series Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement. Visit NCRP’s blog Keeping A Close Eye … for more analyses and commentaries on nonprofit advocacy and community organizing.

MNA 2010 Conference 2

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A special note to Montana Nonpnrofits

by Ruth McCambridge, Editor in Chief, The Nonprofit Quarterly

Soon I will be traveling to Montana to talk with all of you about what’s happening in and around the organizations you run. I will be coming straight from Humboldt County in California, a remote and largely rural area so I hope I won’t be in the weird east coast mode that sometimes earns me the “edgy” (and not in a good way) descriptor in Memphis when I’m there hanging around with this child care organization or that health center. The point is, though, that when I come to Montana, I will be bringing with me stories about what is happening in the rest of the country and I will be coming prepared to listen carefully to the stories you have to tell me, the analyses you have to offer about what is happening right now among nonprofits. Ruth

That is my stock in trade. As the editor of the Nonprofit Quarterly, I follow the stories of nonprofits wherever they are happening. We trace changes in policy, developments in the relationship between nonprofits and government at all levels and watch what philanthropy is doing. It is true that every part of the country is different. In New Jersey, arts organizations were precipitously cut in last year’s budget and now Legal aid services are being threatened by a decline in trust fund accounts. In Texas, the budget for mental health services has been slashed right at the moment when that infrastructure is more badly needed than ever because of
health care reform and the Mental Health parity Act. In the Gulf, community centers for the thousands of Southeast Asians that work in the fishing industry are working overtime to provide services to people who are unemployed and uncovered with few prospects because they were paid in cash.

The nonprofits of this country have made themselves indispensable over the last two years. They have mobilized quickly to work on many aspects of the nation’s present state and they are perfectly poised to take a more powerful position in crafting the future of this country. This is what I want to talk about when I come to Montana. That and everything that matters to you. Please feel free to suggest topics that you’d like me to touch on in response to this post and I’ll see you all soon!

MNA 2010 Conference 1

(Org. Development, Conference) Permanent link

More Than PowerPoint Slides, Nametags, and Carbo Snacks

a few good reasons to attend the MNA 2010 Conference
by Teresa Geremia-Chart, Organizational Development Director

 Teresa Geremia-Chart   The 2010 MNA Nonprofit Conference, our 9th, is just around the corner and online registration is now open.  You might be wondering if you should attend this year’s conference, spend the money, take the time away from the office, sleep in a hotel, and well, let’s face it… you don’t always get what you want to eat….all valid considerations.    But, the benefits of attending the MNA conference absolutely outweigh the sacrifices.

First, the content:  The conference curriculum includes thought-provoking, leading edge information and discussions about the future of our sector to help you to learn how to be agile, informed, financially sustainable, and collaborative in today’s constantly evolving, ever-competitive, increasingly scrutinized and more exciting-than-ever nonprofit environment!  Topics include Montana’s revenue challenges and the 2011 legislative session, the impacts of advocacy and civic engagement on social change, and the 5-year future of MNA and you - not to mention, skill-building sessions about the “new” donor, strategic learning for real impact (not your grandma’s evaluation process), creating a culture of fundraising in your nonprofit, developing leadership skills, recruiting today’s volunteers, social media, green computing, federal grant management, nonprofit investing, and more, more, more.

Second, the talent:   Ruth McCambridge of The Nonprofit Quarterly, one of our nation’s most respected nonprofit journals, who is a dynamo with her finger on the pulse of sector-wide issues will set the stage with her keynote address (and give away subscriptions to her publication).  Tim Delaney, National Council of Nonprofits’ (NCN) CEO who, with a sharp mind, extensive experience, and political savvy is transforming NCN into a leading force for change, and striving to get nonprofits a seat at the political table.  TechSoup, Network for Good, the TCC group (evaluation leaders extraordinaire), along with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, our sister association, will be in the house, not to mention Kit Gillem of M.J. Murdock who will reprise his advanced grantwriting workshop for our pre-conference.

Content and talent:  Our member nonprofits inspire us every day.  But the story of the Indian Law Resource Center and Tim Coulter’s humbling yet powerful work on behalf of indigenous peoples moved me to want to share it.  Their work has progressed steadily and successfully a few blocks from my own house and I didn’t even know about it until recently - one of many hidden gems among our members! 

Networking and sharing:  As a result of reading evaluations from past conferences and our seminars throughout the year, I’ve learned that participants appreciate hearing about the strategies, challenges, successes, and work of other organizations in their community or in their subsector group.  The conference, especially the reception, is a great way to connect with your peers to exchange ideas and share tips for managing your board, your staff, or for getting insight into that funder you’ve been pursuing.  Join us for beverages and a slice of brick baked pizza at the MNA Reception hosted by the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts – talk about a gem – this Montana treasure has international sparkle, too.

Special features:  Behind Google, the most used online server is YouTube.  If so many people are looking at YouTube, they should be looking at your nonprofit.  Learn how to share your work by creating a video (it’s easy with our new Flip Camera) and qualify for a drawing to win a free Flip Camera of your own.  We’ll show you how to make your own 30-90 second video. We’ll even edit it and send it to you for your use in telling your visual story.

Got a burning management question?  Meet one-on-one with a consultant or professional about your specific question or issue through Consultant’s Corner (25-minute sessions during break times).  Experts will be on hand to discuss areas of nonprofit management from governance, to fundraising, to human resources, to financial management, and more.

Become your nonprofit’s financial hero.  New this year, learn how you can save money for your organization through MNA’s insurance programs: Unemployment Insurance Alternative, Nonprofit Business Insurance, Major Medical Health Insurance, and our new Property and Casualty Insurance.  Sign up at the conference for informal, break time “mininars” with representatives from our insurance partners and MNA staff. 

Don’t forget about the exhibitor fair.  Learn about services and products available to your nonprofit and talk directly with professional service providers from banks, to printers, accountants, to web developers, and more.   Some of our national vendor partners will be available this year, too!

Finally, you can pick up staff and presenter book favorites from Fieldstone Alliance, BoardSource, and others at the MNA Book Fair.  I use many of these books in my office to learn about strategies and techniques; some include CDs of templates, checklists, and sample policies.

The most important reason to attend the conference is to take pause from extinguishing the daily brushfires in your organization, to reenergize, be inspired, and celebrate the impact you’re making in the lives of Montanan’s everyday.
 

An Enriching Time Was Had By All: Observations from MNA's Spring Training Program

(Org. Development, Conference) Permanent link

by Teresa Geremia-Chart, Organizational Development Director

This spring over 430 nonprofits participated in one or more of our 13 Principles and Practices implementation webinars and seminars covering topics ranging from Governance & Leadership, Human Resources, Fundraising, and Communications/Technology, and finishing with a couple of outstanding Financial Management workshops earlier this month.   Webinars took us into the offices of our members throughout the state from Miles City to Whitefish; seminars took us from Hamilton to Helena, and Great Falls to Missoula with a great trip to Butte in the middle. 

First, thank you to our nonprofit members for taking the time from your busy schedule to explore ways to improve your efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability by improving your organizational development.  Second, I want to thank our training partners, from Barb Harrington of the Sponsorship Network in New York and Andy Robinson in Vermont, to Terry Profota of Sage Solutions in Bozeman, Ruth French of Associated Employers, Jan Schweitzer of Anderson ZurMuehlen, our friends at NTEN and GrantStation, and Kelly Bruggeman of First Interstate Bank Foundation, Lynda Bourque Moss of the Foundation for Community Vitality, and Carol Lewis of Philanthropy Northwest. 

One observation from this training series is that nonprofits are willing to share their experiences and strategies with other nonprofits.  Collaboration is what distinguishes us from other sectors where competition separates success from failure.   Some of the best time spent at trainings was hearing how nonprofits at various stages of development first wrestled with and then successfully applied management theories to improve their own organizations.  

Another observation is how many hats nonprofit managers must wear.  Unlike large corporations or government, few nonprofits have HR departments, CFOs, attorney's on retainer, or even professional fundraisers.  Most nonprofit managers must become experts (and fast) at governance, raising funds, managing finances, and hiring and supervising personnel and volunteers. Moreover, nonprofit managers must also understand legal requirements in areas of corporate governance, grant management, IRS fund management, and federal and state labor laws.  My hat is off to all of you; and for our part, we'll continue our work to help ease your task by providing as many resources as we can through our Principles and Practices, online materials and links, continued trainings, and of course our annual conference, which is described below.  

Throughout the trainings, I had a great time sharing the experience and content on Twitter.  Below is a selection of some of the best tweets from the series.

  • The person who typically commits fraud in a nonprofit is the person least expected to commit fraud
  • 2008 grants in Montana totaled 1,151 - median grant size in MT was $9,500 compared to regional Northwest median at $7,500
  • From Philanthropy Northwest Trends in Northwest Giving Report 2010 http://bit.ly/93ehWI
  • Individuals remains the biggest source of giving to nonprofits over corporation and foundation giving
  • Sustainable nonprofits have 4 capacities - leadership, adaptive, management, technical - From TCC group: http://www.tccgrp.com/
  • Nonprofit board tasks should be SMART:  specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely
  • Nonprofit board responsibilities fall within 5 buckets:  leadership, governance, stewardship, management, and highly engaged volunteer.
  • Nonprofit ED evaluations are based on criteria and done annually, get input from full board - check out @NatlCouncilNPs ED compensation information.
  • Fed grant requirements OMB Circular A-122; A-110; and A-133 http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars
  • Wage Claims #1 reasons for lawsuits against nonprofit employers, 2nd is harassment
  • Unpaid interns must be students and/or learners - in MT must complete an application with DOL - New Fact Sheet
  • Churches get the majority of individual gifts because they ask and ask often...and big - 10% of income - and they ask everyone
  • All board members should know your funding mixture - how much from gifts, from foundations, earned income, etc.
  • Board assignment: Each - sit down with a blank piece of paper, write your organization mission in your own words.
  • NTEN/MNA webinar: Baby Boomers are embracing popular consumer technology apps. nearly 20 times faster than younger gens.
  • Number one comment heard by GrantStation from international funders is: "Yes, we fund in the U.S., but no one ever applies."
  • Barb Harrington says to reinvest 15-20% of sponsorship for advertising, tickets, and giveaways 

 

Good news on the nonprofit health insurance front? Read on...

(Policy, Products and Services) Permanent link
by Brian Magee, MNA Executive Director

Brian-eNews

We have been saying for quite some time that MNA is part of a growing movement across the country to strengthen the nonprofit sector through collective action and influence. This is new territory for all of us and we’re learning as we go, but the early returns are very encouraging. In particular, MNA’s healthcare related work over the past year – both on the federal policy side and our homegrown Group Benefits Trust - is a prime example of the power and potential of this movement. This month’s article sheds some light on the results of this important work.

On the policy front, MNA worked closely with our fellow state associations through the National Council of Nonprofits to ensure nonprofits were included in the small employer tax credits that passed in this year’s landmark healthcare legislation. When legislation was first introduced, nonprofits were not afforded the same benefits as small businesses – we were essentially left out of the equation. The good news is that our network’s intense lobbying of Congress changed all of that by moving our country’s leaders to see both businesses and nonprofits as “small employers” requiring assistance. Collective action produced the desired result.

The new health care reform law now allows small nonprofits to claim up to a 25 percent tax credit when they pay for at least half of the health insurance premiums for their employees. To claim the credit, the nonprofit must have 25 or fewer employees, average wages must be less than $50,000, and the nonprofit must pay at least 50% of the insurance premium cost for employees. Eligible nonprofits can start claiming the credit immediately. These are real significant savings which translate to more dollars in the bank accounts of many small to midsize nonprofits. Click here for more details on the small employer tax credit.

At the same time that MNA has been engaged in national advocacy efforts around health care reform, we have been working diligently to contain costs here at home. After several weeks of negotiations with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT), MNA’s Group Benefits Trust (the Trust) announced recently that health insurance premium costs for the 2010 plan year beginning July 1 would increase by an average of only 3.7%. This means that MNA members participating in the Trust have one of the lowest premium increases for an employer sponsored group benefit plan in Montana. Since its inception in 2007, the Trust has averaged a 6% annual increase, far below the Montana and national average. And finally, in what has become a rare event, two of the seven plans offered by the Trust will have a premium decrease for the upcoming year. Click here to read MNA’s press release on the Trust.

In the coming weeks, MNA will be sharing with you more information about positive Trust developments including the addition of stronger preventive benefits, ala carte benefits such as vision and dental, and a first rate wellness program. Our hope is to leverage this strong renewal and partnership with BCBSMT to significantly grow the Trust well beyond the current 43 MNA member employers of the Trust who provide health insurance for 700 employees and many dependents across Montana. If you haven’t looked into the Trust in awhile, we encourage you to do so. Please do not hesitate to contact Brad Robinson at MNA should you have questions about the Trust and MNA’s health insurance program.

As for MNA, our work on the policy front and on your behalf never rests. I’ll be visiting with our congressional delegation as part of Nonprofit Lobby Day on June 16th in Washington DC. I’ll be sure to thank them for their support of nonprofits as small employers and update them on our success with the Trust. Stay tuned for next month’s “From the Desk” when I’ll provide a full report from my trip to the Hill.