MNN Announces New Board Chair

The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) is pleased to announce that Jim Ayres has been elected as the next Chair of the Network’s Board of Directors. Ayres will succeed David Shapiro, CEO of Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership, who has chaired the MNN board since 2011.

“I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to guide this important and dynamic organization,” Ayres said. “The state’s nonprofit sector is a critical social and economic engine that impacts each and every resident of Massachusetts. I look forward to working with nonprofit, business, and government leaders across the state to support the sector and, ultimately, help build a better Commonwealth.”

“We are thrilled to have Jim Ayres chairing our board as MNN enters its second decade,” said Jim Klocke, MNN’s CEO. “He is an exceptional leader, who has extensive nonprofit programming and policy experience. Jim has been a valuable member of our board for the last three years, and we cannot wait to work more closely with him.”

Ayres, who joined MNN’s board in 2014, will assume the role of President and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley, based in Springfield, later this month. For the last six years, he has served as the Executive Director of the United Way of Hampshire County. Under his leadership, the organization received widespread recognition for its innovative approaches to grant making, resource development, public messaging, and creating positive change in the community.

Prior to joining United Way, Ayres led the Northampton-based Center for New Americans, an education and resource center for immigrants and refugees, for 12 years. He holds a BA from Hampshire College, an MBA from UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, and an MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In addition to MNN, Ayres serves on the boards of the Institute for Training and Development and the Hampshire County Council of Social Agencies.

MNN is extremely thankful for all that Shapiro has done to support the organization, and the state’s nonprofit sector, during his tenure as Chair. In recognition of this, MNN’s Governance Committee has decided to appoint him as a Director Emeritus, with his term beginning in June.

Nonprofit 411: Tips for Designing or Re-Designing Your Non-Profit Website

By Ginger Kroll, Account Manager, Muse Intermedia

Ginger-KrollOver the years Muse Intermedia has designed, redesigned and maintained hundreds of websites. In the past year we’ve worked on a number of large scale non-profit website redesigns and in doing so, we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks from what we’ve learned throughout the varying processes.  Whether you’re starting from scratch or investing in a redesign, here is our list of things to consider when taking your non-profit into the digital age.

Be Accessible

It’s extremely important that your site be accessible. When researching potential agencies look for ones that start their design process at the mobile level and build from there. You’ll want to ensure that your non-profit site has the ability to quickly connect with millions of people and that means being mobile ready and at the tip of your visitor’s fingertips.

Content Content Content

Besides just engaging potential supporters online, content helps people find you when they search online. It’s essential that your company make itself a center of user-friendly content and that means utilizing social media and blog posts. Depending on your platform, encourage your readers to provide content for your site by leaving comments on your blog or Facebook page. Doing this can get a regular flow of content from your supporters and add a unique dynamic to your site.

Make it Visual

A picture is worth a thousand words – which makes the imagery you place on your website extremely important.  Make sure you have the images you need to fill the pages of your site and keep your visitors visually stimulated. It’s important that the images you select not only tell a story, but are brand relevant and high quality (i.e. large, high resolution images always work best.) And as we mentioned above, make sure the images you select will work on all devices – accessibility is key!

Don’t forget the important stuff

What financially drives your non-profit? Whether it’s fundraisers, annual galas, or festivals, highlighting your non-profit’s events plays a crucial part in the design of your site. It’s important that your organization make an inventory of what you currently use and what you would like to use, so that your design team can make sure they select the right tools for your site. Ask your design team for examples of custom event pages, calendars and blogposts they’ve used to highlight their client’s events. Make sure to discuss specific needs with your design team so that they can decide on how best to approach your site.

The Most Important Lesson of All

Find a design team that supports you and your organization’s mission. Make sure they spend time getting to know you so that they can understand who you are and what tools you need to be successful. Searching for the right agency can be daunting – make sure you find one that communicates clearly and the result will be fewer surprises and a beautiful, functional, website.

Senate Proposed Employer Assessment, A Step Forward:

Yesterday, the Senate Ways & Means Committee released its FY18 budget proposal. Included in this proposal was authorization for the administration to pursue either the employer health care assessment or an increase in the existing employer medical assistance contribution (EMAC), a fund to subsidize health care to low-income residents of the Commonwealth.

The proposal put forward by the Senate Ways & Means Committee is a positive step forward and will allow continued opportunities for dialogue on this important issue. MNN has been meeting with leaders in the administration and legislature on this complicated issue and will continue to remain engaged as conversations around these two proposals go forward.

As for the two options included in the Senate Ways & Means budget, the administration would have until August 1st to choose between the employer assessment or an increase to EMAC. If the administration went with the employer assessment, it would apply to employers with 25 or more employees that don’t offer adequate health plans and the administration would have the option to exclude certain classes of employers including nonprofits. The administration would need to consider many factors before setting the amount of the assessment including: (1) the number of employees; (2) whether employees are part-time or full-time; (3) whether employees have access to health insurance through a parent, spouse, veteran’s or Medicare; and (4) how much the employer contributes towards the employer-sponsored health care plan. If the administration instead went with the EMAC proposal, it could raise the current $51 per employee EMAC, an existing assessment that applies to employers with six or more employees.

Similar to the final House budget, the Senate proposal lowered the revenue target of the assessment ($180 million as opposed to the $300 million proposed by the administration). The Senate proposal also delays implementation to January 2018 and includes language sunsetting either proposal two years after the effective date.

Nonprofit 411: Tips for Lobbying your Legislators

By Stefanie Coxe, Principal, Nexus Werx LLC

Most non-profit leaders I train to lobby feel overwhelmed at the prospect of asking their lawmakers to secure a budget earmark or to advocate for legislation that would benefit their organization. There’s a lot of relationship-building and other work to do ahead of meeting with them, but if you’re already well-known to your state representative and state senator, this is the Anatomy of the Ask:

First, do your homework. Is your representative the lead sponsor of the line-item you’re pushing? Is she on the record in the newspaper opposing the bill you’re meeting on? Make sure you’re not sabotaging yourself by unexpectedly meeting with the opposition or embarrassing yourself by asking her to support something she’s a well-known champion of.

Next, get on their schedule. During the budget and other busy times, State Legislators will generally be in “the building” (the State House) Tues-Thursday and in-district Monday and Friday. Call to confirm the meeting and, for pity’s sake, if you’re running late, call and let them know. (They, on the other hand have de facto permission to be as late as they want.) Don’t be afraid to meet with an aide if they cancel last minute (it happens all the time). They can be your biggest advocates!

Have your swag ready to go. In politics, we call this a “one pager.” And I do mean one. Politicians and their aides get mountains of requests and usually don’t have the time or manpower to read through long reports. Trust me, if they want more, they’ll ask for it. Things to include:

  • Program name, line-item/bill number
  • If you’re asking them to co-sponsor something, don’t forget to name the lead sponsor (and their aide, and the amendment number)! And while you’re at it, include your name and contact info!
  • Bill/funding history of your ask
  • Information about who and how many people who will be impacted (preferably people in their district), how it will work, and a little more meat on the bones. Still one page front and back, though.

Perfect your elevator speech. If your legislator doesn’t understand what you want in less than five minutes, chances are your request isn’t going far. Keep it high level. Tell them what the program/bill is, what problem it’s fixing (or what gain it’s creating), why it’s important to his/her district, and if it’s funding, how it will be sustained. After you’ve done that you can engage in a back and forth discussing the granular details.

Finally, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. A week or two after your meeting, make a pleasant call to their aide asking if their boss has had a chance to consider your request or take action they promised in the meeting.

If they agree to help, thank them. Thank their aide. Thank them publicly, if possible. Thank them, because it’s a thankless job and everyone appreciates being valued.

For more information, visit: http://www.nexuswerx.com/learn-to-lobby.html

Nonprofit 411: Non-Profit Employee Classification Checklist

By Paul Holtzman, Partner, Krokidas & Bluestein

As a non-profit organization, there are many considerations to account for in the way you supervise, retain, PaulHoltzmanand compensate your workforce. From classification of employment status to compensation practices, mismanagement of personnel can be damaging for any organization and the risk is only exacerbated for nonprofits. Below are a few tips to help you navigate the murky waters between volunteers, interns and independent contractors, so that you can ensure that you are adhering to applicable laws and classifying personnel in an accurate and legal way.

They may be a volunteer if…

  • The worker does not receive or expect to receive benefits from their work
  • The activity constitutes less than a full-time occupation
  • Regular employees are not displaced by the volunteer
  • The individual is acting without having been pressured or coerced
  • The services are not the same type as those performed by employees of the organization

They may be an intern if…

  • Their activity is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment
  • The experience is for their benefit
  • The individual does not displace regular employees
  • There is no immediate advantage derived by your organization from the intern’s activities
  • There is a mutual understanding that the intern is not entitled to wages for their time spent; and that they are not necessarily entitled to a job

They may be an independent contractor if…

  • The individual is free from control and direction of the organization, both by design and in fact
  • The service they provide is performed outside the usual course of business of your organization
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in their work for your organization

Nonprofit 411: Size and Success: The Case for Capacity for NPOs

By Kim McCormick, Senior Vice President, McCormick Group

The spectrum of nonprofit organizations (NPO) in the United States ranges from $3+ billion to $250 in annual revenue. The DSC_0303pi-04Ms (1)huge disparity paired with the sheer number (1.5 million) of registered NPOs begs the question, does size matter?

SIZE

Interestingly, there are two conflicting concepts regarding size. Larger organizations have greater resources to make changes, acquire technologies and train staff, however it’s more difficult to shift system wide. Smaller organizations may shift models easily, yet lack capacity and financial resources to make impactful change. Knowing the sweet spot for your organization’s size can help you deliver your mission more effectively. Unfortunately, many NPOs are busy raising money and managing daily operations. Building capacity for greater impact is the stuff of dreams.

Capacity can be measured by in many ways; stating efficacy in relationship to size is but one. NPOs at an effective capacity level raise more money in relationship to their size than smaller organizations. Comparing average gross revenue to size, research shows that the minimum financial capacity for organizational effectiveness is between $1-5M with $10M being the beginning of the sweet spot for strategic growth.

NPOs raising less than $1-3M simply don’t have the capacity to deliver the brand, attract and train quality employees, implement major programs, deeply invest in technology or significantly impact mission. If that is the case, then how can we build capacity? There are several ways, including:

• Raise more money

• Cut staff, programs and services

• Seek collaborative agreements to broaden the footprint, gain economies of scale and reach more constituents

The focus of a collaboration solution to capacity starts with mission, not money, and is centered on ‘what we can do better together.’

SUCCESS

The first step to measuring success requires looking beyond the dashboard to multi-year trends. If a drop is noticeable or the organization is losing impact, volunteers and influence, the reason can usually be traced to capacity. Whether it’s lack of consistent funding, staff, volunteers, lack of “pick your point” there are missing elements that if present would result in positive trends. Additional factors including increased competition, the complexity of managing donors, policy shifts and environmental influences can inhibit success year after year.

Consider the impact of scale. The difference between a $1M versus a $10M organization spending 10% on branding is significant such that to achieve the desired results, the larger organization may only need to spend 7% on branding and have more funds available (in this example $300,000) to invest in strategic objectives. As scale increases, capacities increase simply because of size. There is direct evidence of entities lacking consistent financial capacity and not achieving goals due to weak brand recognition.

Donors relate to an organization on brand, but judge effectiveness on programmatic, fundraising and administration costs compared to monies raised. The larger an organization’s revenues in relationship to their expenses, the more appealing these ratios are to constituents.

Finding success through building capacity can be likened to realizing that you need something, like vegetables to sell at your market. You can either buy land, equipment and seeds, plant and tend hoping your investment pays off; or you can visit a vegetable farmer, get to know her, share resources, create a partnership and start offering high quality vegetables to your constituents quickly and inexpensively. Dream big!

Nonprofit 411: Goodbye Obamacare & Hello Trumpcare? Not so fast…

By Colleen Doherty, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, SVP, Compliance & Client Service, Eastern InsuranceColleen Doherty

From the day that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare, The Affordable Care Act, or the ACA) was signed into law back in 2010, its opponents have been vowing to repeal it. During the Obama administration, repeal was a moot point given that President Obama could veto any bill that attempted to dismantle his signature legislation. Under the new Trump administration, the repeal of the ACA is a primary objective of the new president as well as the Republican majority House and Senate.  However, a full repeal of the law is highly unlikely given that Senate Democrats will most likely block any attempt to fully repeal the law.

What is an ACA opponent to do?
[Read more…]

Nonprofit 411: Benchmarking: Satisfy your Board and Gain a Competitive Advantage

By Tyler Butler, BerryDunn

Benchmarking doesn’t need to be time and resource consuming. Read on for four simple steps you can take to improve efficiency and maximize resources. [Read more…]

Nonprofit 411: New Financial Reporting Standards for Nonprofits Aimed at Greater Transparency

By William B. Ford, CPA, and Linda J. Kramer, CPA, MBA
G.T. Reilly & Company

You may have heard that new financial reporting standards are coming down the pike that will affect your organization. The good news is that the new standards don’t take effect for more than a year, giving you plenty of time to familiarize your organization with any new requirements. A review of your organization’s financial reporting practices may be beneficial in preparation for the new standards.

Bill Ford-WEB

William B. Ford, CPA

Linda Kramer

Linda J. Kramer, CPA, MBA

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-14, Presentation of Financial Statements for Not–for-Profit Entities. This ASU is the first phase of a two-phase project and is intended to make nonprofit financial reporting more transparent.

Specifically, the new standards will improve net asset classification requirements and information presented in the financial statements and notes about a nonprofit entity’s liquidity, financial performance and cash flows.

The changes are effective for organizations with fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2017, although early implementation is permitted. These amendments should be applied on a retrospective basis. The nonprofit has the option to omit certain information for any period presented before the period of required adoption.

Main provisions

  • The current presentation of three categories of net assets (unrestricted, temporarily restricted and permanently restricted) will be reduced to two categories: net assets without donor restrictions and net assets with donor restrictions.
  • The statement of activities also will reflect two classes of net assets.
  • Cash flows will continue to be presented using either the direct or indirect method with the requirement to reconcile the direct method being eliminated.
  • Enhanced disclosures will be required, including amounts and purposes, for any board-designated appropriations.
  • Enhanced disclosures will be required for composition of donor-restricted net assets at the end of the period and
    for how those restrictions affect the use of resources.
  • Disclosure will be required to communicate how the organization manages its liquid resources available to meet cash needs for general expenditures during the next year.
  • Expenses will be presented by both natural classification and functional classification. This may be done within the statement of activities, as a separate statement, or in the notes.
  • Disclosures will be required concerning the methods used to allocate costs among program and support functions.
  • Underwater endowment funds will be reported as part of net assets with donor restrictions; previously these were reported with unrestricted net assets.
  • Investment returns will be shown net of external and direct internal investment expenses with no disclosure necessary for the amount of the expenses.
  • Release of net assets with donor restrictions for long lived assets will be required when the asset is placed in service, thus eliminating the option of release over the estimated useful life of the asset.

If you have questions about whether your current practices will be in compliance with the new standards, or if you would like assistance with implementation of the new accounting rules, please contact us at 617-696-08900.

Nonprofit 411: Comprehensive Fiscal Sponsorship Helps Foundations Support the Most Promising New Nonprofits

Josh Sattely, Esq., Third Sector New England

How can the philanthropic sector best identify and support promising new initiatives? A different way to ask the question is what’s the difference between a ham sandwich and a new public charity? Not much these days as far as the IRS is concerned as there is no meaningful vetting being done on new applicants filing the Form 1023-EZ.2013100312_04_418682

For those not familiar with the 1023-EZ, it is an ill-advised solution to address the previous astounding backlog of public charity applications sitting with the IRS.  Thought leaders in the field fear this open door policy will greatly dilute what it means to be a public charity and cause a myriad of problems down the road.

So, how can foundations and other mindful donors interested in supporting new and promising charitable initiatives separate the promising wheat from the chaff and ensure these groups are effectively navigating a complex compliance environment? One increasingly utilized solution is fiscal sponsorship, more specifically comprehensive fiscal sponsorship where the charitable initiative is positioned and supported as a semi-autonomous program or business division of an established nonprofit for the duration of the relationship.  

Why does this help anyone you ask?  For starters, when done right, the fiscal sponsor has a seasoned board of directors committed to the success of both their immediate organization and all projects operating under their purview. They vet potential partners not only on mission compatibility but also assess risk profile, and sponsors work closely with the project to ensure continual movement towards sustainability while not inadvertently driving off a compliance cliff.  

Once a fiscal sponsorship relationship is established, projects benefit from the flexibility and experience of experienced nonprofit professionals; the most common supports being financial management and oversight, legal compliance, risk management, and human resources and benefits administration.  A growing number of sponsors also provide additional capacity-building supports such as trainings, coaching and, eventually, succession planning.  Fiscal sponsors are not profit-making centers but need to cover their costs and typically do so via an overhead cost allocation.  To determine if the cost allocation is reasonable, be sure to take a close look at what supports the project receives.  

The fiscal sponsorship incubator approach described above is exactly how the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) began its journey. MNN operated under TSNE for its first three years so it could focus on business model development and internal capacity building while TSNE shouldered the administrative and compliance burdens.  Once it had built its own infrastructure, it transitioned to independence and all assets held by TSNE for the benefit of MNN were transferred to the new entity to be deployed in advancement of MNN’s mission.

In sum, well-vetted and nurtured nonprofits change the world.  The turnkey model of comprehensive fiscal sponsorship serves both as a runway for groups such as MNN and as a long-term home for thriving initiatives where the need for independence is less compelling.  Because of this unique relationship, fiscal sponsors have a vested interest in the long-term success of those they partner with whether the legal relationship lasts for a few years or a few decades.

Josh Sattely, Esq., is the Compliance and Legal Affairs Specialist for Third Sector New England (TSNE). TSNE’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program works with 88 nonprofit projects across the country, stewards $27 million in project funds and offers an effective shared services platform adding financial management and risk management, assuring legal and grants compliance and administering employee compensation and benefits for innovative social justice initiatives. TSNE has nearly 60 years of experience in the field of Fiscal Sponsorship and also partners with other nonprofits, foundations, community-based groups by providing a dynamic mix of management and consulting services, training programs, and grants to grassroots networks. Visit their website: www.tsne.org.