Nonprofit 411: MA Paid Family and Medical Leave: What Do Nonprofits Need to Do For the October 1 Deadline?

Nonprofit 411 Insource-minby Saleha Walsh, Insource Services

Massachusetts provided us with a summer break in delaying the implementation of the payroll taxes that will fund the new state paid leave program. Now it’s time to prepare to meet the upcoming deadlines that require employers to notify their employees of program benefits and to begin employer contributions and employee deductions.

As a reminder, key provisions of this new program include:

  • Paid state-administered medical leave (up to 20 weeks) and family leave (up to 12 weeks, and more for covered service members) beginning in January of 2012. Leave is capped at 26 weeks per year.
  • All Massachusetts workers (as defined in the law – employees and in some cases 1099 contractors) who work for covered entities are eligible for paid leave, limited exceptions exist.
  • A payroll tax payable through MassTaxConnect beginning effective 10/1/19 and paid quarterly. The initial tax contribution rates is 0.75% of a worker’s wages (up to $132,900 of wages).
  • To be eligible for benefits, an employee must have received earnings from present or former Massachusetts employers that are (1) at least 30 times his/her weekly benefit amount, and (2) at least $4,700 over the past 12 months.
  • Former employees meeting this financial eligibility test are also eligible if the leave begins within twenty-six (26) weeks after employment termination.

To meet the October deadline, employers should:

  • Determine if they are a covered business entity. While all employers must participate in the program, a covered business entity is one in which more than fifty percent of a business’s workforce is comprised of self-employed individuals (1099-eligible). A covered business entity is required to include all of the covered employees and contractors in the program.
  • Determine the size of the workforce. Those organizations with fewer than 25 eligible workers must transmit the taxes deducted through payroll deduction on behalf of their employees, but are not required to contribute to the tax. Those organizations with 25 or more employees are required to contribute a portion of the tax for their employees.
  • Consider seeking state approval of a private plan offering identical benefits and protections.
  • Begin to plan for policy changes, if needed, to provide time off and job protection in accordance with the leave act.
  • Submit quarterly wage reports on their workforce including 1099 contractors beginning in January 2020 for the last quarter of 2019.
  • Begin employee payroll deductions effective 10/1/19 and transmit by January of 2020 for the 4th quarter of 2019. For those employers with 25 or more covered workers, the state guidelines require employers to pay 60% of the medical leave share of the tax and employees to pay the remaining 40% through payroll deduction (the medical contribution represents 0.62 of the 0.75 tax).  Employers are not required to contribute to the family leave tax.  (Employers with under 25 workers are not required to contribute at all but must collect and transmit employee deductions for both family and medical leave.)
  • Display the MA Medical and Family leave poster where other employment posters are displayed, in multiple languages in some cases.
  • Distribute workforce notices (by 10/1/19 and upon hire thereafter).

For more information or to obtain sample notices and templates, go to https://www.mass.gov/info-details/paid-family-medical-leave-for-employers-faq and/or contact Insource Services (www.insourceservices.com).

 

Our Shared Sector: Four Ways to Become a More Inclusive Nonprofit Leader

by YW Boston

YW Boston 1-min

Studies have found that nonprofit organizations are suffering from racial and gender leadership gaps. Research shows that people of color have similar qualifications as white respondents and are more likely to aspire to nonprofit leadership positions, yet people of color are severely underrepresented in leadership positions within the nonprofit sector. This has left many nonprofits wondering how they can develop more inclusive leadership in order to successfully support diversity and inclusion within their organization.

We know that improving diversity and inclusion within an organization requires a team effort. DE&I experts stress the importance of organizational buy-in. Leadership, in particular, should be open to changes within the organization. Executive leadership and management can sometimes pose as gatekeepers to organizational change. Therefore, it’s essential for influential leaders to assess the inclusivity of their leadership. Inclusive leaders can become change agents and are a key element of successful diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Fostering inclusive leadership means that your organization is committed to seeking diverse viewpoints, particularly when it comes to decision making.

But what exactly is an inclusive leader? How does one become an inclusive leader and how can individuals assess their own leadership skills?

1. Value and leverage all points of view in order to make better decisions

Groupthink can stifle innovation, decision making, and hurt a company’s bottom line. A leader’s ability to leverage diverse viewpoints can become one of their most critical skills. Through improved collaboration and strategic decision making, inclusive leaders can positively impact business performance, professional development, and employee engagement within their organizations. Not only do diverse teams perform better, but there is also a penalty for less diverse companies.

2. Build the courage to challenge assumptions and practice accountability

Inclusive leaders tolerate risk and are willing to be the first to speak up in favor of changes within an organization. It takes courage to challenge the status quo and hold the organization, others, and ourselves accountable. Courageous leaders should practice self-awareness and regulation in order to lean into discomfort and address their own biases and limitations.

3. Are committed to intentionally creating more inclusive spaces

When an organization is inclusive, all members feel valued, respected, and confident in speaking up and being heard. An inclusive space makes everyone feel like they belong. Improving inclusivity requires a long-term commitment and intentional effort. This means that inclusive leaders should adapt their practices and allocate resources towards improving diversity and inclusion. By aligning DE&I efforts to personal values and business priorities, inclusive leaders can ensure lasting impact.

4. Analyze root causes before taking action

A systems approach, such as the iceberg model, can allow leaders to be more effective and inclusive problem solvers. The iceberg model looks at the various elements within a system that can influence each other. During YW Boston’s LeadBoston program, we challenge participants to critically assess challenges in order to differentiate between symptoms and root cause. This approach provides both the knowledge and the tools that allow leaders to identify attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that may be reinforcing barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

 

YW Boston 2-min

Source

This article appeared originally on the YW Boston blog.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

 

Member Spotlight: Boston Partners in Education

Member Spotlight Boston Partners in Education (1)-minShowing appreciation for the volunteers and community that support a nonprofit’s mission is extremely meaningful and can result in better retention, improved recruitment, and the creation of brand ambassadors.

Boston Partners in Education’s mission is to enhance the academic achievement and nurture the personal growth of Boston’s public school students by providing them with focused, individualized, in-school volunteer support. On June 11, the education nonprofit applauded the end of the school year with their own celebration: their annual AMP! Awards.

The AMP Awards are designed to recognize and honor the volunteer academic mentors, teachers, and corporate partners who serve Boston’s public school students. Presented in seven categories including the Educator of the Year, School Partner of the Year, and Rookie of the year; the awards recognize individuals and partners who have demonstrated an exemplary dedication to improving the lives and education of BPS students through their relationship with Boston Partners.

It takes a special commitment to become an academic mentor, and over 80 partners joined the festivity to celebrate their peers. The ceremony was kicked off by Boston Partners Chairman Mike McKenna and Executive Director Erin McGrath reiterating the immeasurable impact that volunteer academic mentors make in the classroom each year.

“These individuals work on the front lines of our mission. Whether they are volunteering, teaching, or partnering with our organization, everyone deserves recognition for their commitment,” said Erin McGrath. “These awards are a small way to show them how grateful Boston Partners is for their dedicated work in our community.”

One of the awards, the John C. Rennie Mentor of the Year Award is presented to a volunteer who “embodies what it means to be a Boston Partners in Education academic mentor.” This award recognizes an individual who becomes an integral part of the classroom as both an academic mentor, friend, and role model. This year’s award was presented to Kathy Weld (pictured above), who has been a fixture in Mr. Russell’s classroom at the McKinley South End Academy since 2015.

While Boston Partners mentors aim to help students who could benefit from more individualized attention in the classroom during the school day, mentoring at the McKinley South End Academy is different than the typical Boston Partners volunteer experience. The school focuses on the emotional, behavioral, and learning needs of its students using a highly-structured behavior management system. For students who receive a lot of messages about the ways that they’re not doing well and might not succeed, it’s significant to have someone from their community come into their classroom each week and tell them that they believe in them. Mr. Russell joined the AMP Awards to present the award to Kathy, and described her as “in a category of her own.”

“She doesn’t just put in time,” Mr. Russell said. “She’s exemplary in her willingness to do anything, and for her flexibility, her insight, her compassion, and good humor.”

Kathy’s special connection to the school isn’t simply the result of personalities meshing. Kathy spends more time working with students than Boston Partners volunteers typically do — much more, in fact. For over three years, Kathy has been mentoring two or more days a week for three or more hours each day. According to Mr. Russell, more important than the quantity of her work, in the countless hours that Kathy has spent in his classroom, is the quality.

Acknowledging and showing gratitude for the individuals that support and drive your organization’s mission is an important part of becoming a successful nonprofit. Like the AMP Awards, a celebration to acknowledge the dedication it takes to support a nonprofit organization is a great way to reinforce the importance of the work they do and extend a Thank You to your community.

To learn more about how to get involved as an academic mentor, visit www.bostonpartners.org.

New Commonwealth Insights: Massachusetts Nonprofits Generate Over 551,000 Jobs and $36 Billion in Wages

Comm Insights 2019 2nd ed website (1)-minToday MNN released the latest edition of Commonwealth Insights, “The Nonprofit Sector Jobs Engine And Strategies for Strengthening It.”

The new report draws on recently-released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to paint the most up-to-date picture of the nonprofit sector’s economic impact in Massachusetts. The data shows that in 2017, Massachusetts nonprofits generated 551,117 jobs and $36.1 billion in wages. Nonprofits comprised almost 18% of the total workforce, the fifth highest percentage in the country.

The data also shows that from 2013 to 2017, nonprofit employment in Massachusetts grew by 41,763 jobs, an increase of 8.2%, and annual nonprofit wages grew by $6 billion, an increase of 20%.

“The nonprofit sector’s economic impact is not only large, it’s growing at a rapid clip,” said Jim Klocke, CEO of MNN. “The roles of nonprofits as economic engines and as service providers are both crucial to protect.”

The report makes three policy recommendations in support of the Massachusetts nonprofit sector:

  • Preserve and grow charitable giving, including the creation of a federal universal tax deduction and the restoration of the Massachusetts state charitable tax deduction;
  • Streamline state-level reporting requirements to remove duplication and reduce costs associated with reporting;
  • Optimize employer policies so that they work for nonprofits as well as for-profits.

The most recent edition of Commonwealth Insights comes on the heels of a Giving USA Foundation report released in late June, which found that individual donations to American charities dropped by $3.2 billion nationwide in 2018 ($10.4 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars).

Previous editions of Commonwealth Insights have explored the potential impact of 2017’s federal tax reform law on Massachusetts nonprofits.

“The nationwide drop in charitable giving resulting from the change in the federal tax code is a concerning trend. The recommendations outlined in this new report will preserve and strengthen the nonprofit sector’s role as cornerstones of our communities,” added Klocke.

Commonwealth Insights publications highlight policy, issues, and trends important to the nonprofit sector published by MNN. This is the second edition of Commonwealth Insights in 2019. Earlier editions focused on federal government shutdowns, year-end fundraising strategies, the 2020 Census, and the impacts of federal tax reform. Prior editions can be viewed at www.massnonprofitnet.org/CommonwealthInsights.

Nonprofit 411: How to Prepare for Having Your 990 Prepared

Nonprofit 411 Jitasa-minBy Jeremy Cork, Jitasa

Whether you prepare your own Form 990 or outsource it, you can make the process less painful by following some simple steps and gathering certain information well-before prep begins. There are (2) variations of Form 990: Form 990 (12 pages) long form or Form 990-EZ (4 pages) short-form.  The gross receipts of your organization are usually what determines which Form 990 you are required to file.

If your fiscal year ends on December 31, your Form 990 is due by May 15.  You do have the option to file a 6-month extension giving you a new/final due date of November 15.  The month following your fiscal year end is usually very busy; preparing and filing employee W2s and contractor 1099’s, preparing various reports, etc. By the time you are finished with those tasks, you’re now a month closer (or more) to your Form 990 due date.  The Form 990 has as nearly as many additional schedules as there are letters in the alphabet.  Knowing ahead of time which schedules may be required can save time, effort and reduce stress.  To see a list of additional schedules and instructions, visit the IRS link here: https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-990-schedules.

Some of these steps can only be done after your fiscal year ends, however, by understanding each step and being proactive, your 990-filing experience can come and go with ease. This list is not all-inclusive as each organization is different, however, many steps are common for all organizations. So here they are!

Steps for making 990 Prep less complicated and less stressful:

  • BE PROACTIVE: discuss with your team ahead of time rather than just before the due date.
  • Financial Review or Audit: Review the audit requirements for your state.
  • IRS Extension: Consider ahead of time if you think you’ll need to file an extension.
  • Review Prior-year Form 990: This will provide insight into what will be required for the current year.
  • Close Books for Year-End:
    • Reconcile ALL bank/checking/savings/investment accounts, etc…
    • Record any journal entries necessary; accruals, AR, AP, prepaids, depreciation, etc…
    • Perform year-end Book Review: Review all activity for all accounts.
  • Gather Financial Information:
    • Financial Reports.
    • Copies of W2’s and 1099’s.
    • Review list of Form 990 Schedules – compare to prior-year Form 990.
  • Non-financial Information:
    • Organization details; Name, Address, Phone #, Board of Directors.
    • Review Parts IV – VII on the 990 to determine which other information may be required.
    • Who will review and sign your 990 internally before the deadline?
    • May need to consider additional as well.
    • Timing: Provide ample time for Board Review and any comments or changes before the filing deadline. A board review is not required but is strongly encouraged.

It may seem like it takes more time to gather information than to prepare the 990, but the extra time spent before prep will pay-off in the end.  Whether your file a Form 990 long form or Form 990-EZ short-form, prep time can be drastically reduced by following the steps outlined above.  Understanding that preparing and filing Form 990 is extremely important to your organization and should not be an after-thought. Your mission, and the cause it supports, is much too important not to consider the importance of your Form 990.

Member Spotlight: Parenting Journey

Member Spotlight Parenting Journey-minCollaboration between nonprofits can be a powerful force for change in a community, and can address needs that could not have been solved as effectively by any one organization.

MNN member Parenting Journey (PJ) uses collaboration in working towards the day when every family has what they need to thrive and succeed. Rooted in the belief that all parents know what is best for their children, PJ recognizes that some parents cannot reach their full potential because of systemic injustices that disproportionately impact communities of color, low-income families, and immigrants. In response to intergenerational trauma caused by racism and poverty, PJ uses an interdisciplinary approach to effect change in family systems, institutional systems, and governmental systems to uplift families.

PJ recognizes that collaboration and collective impact are essential to disrupting intergenerational poverty and trauma through a continuum of wrap-around services that meet the needs of individuals and families. PJ launched a two-generation service delivery model in partnership with nonprofits in the Greater Boston area who work with families at different life stages and in different capacities.

One of PJ’s partnerships provides a glimpse into the power of nonprofit collaboration. PJ partners with the Epiphany School to provide its Parenting Journey I program to parents at the Epiphany School Early Learning Center (ELC) in Dorchester, MA. So far, a total of 28 young, low-income parents who have children enrolled at the Early Learning Center have participated in the 12-session curriculum. The weekly two-hour sessions are co-facilitated by Delores Reyes of Parenting Journey and Emily Bautista, the director of student support at Epiphany School.

During the sessions, parents explore their relationships with their own parents and past experiences that impact how they parent. The sessions provide parents with the opportunity for self-reflection and realization. Parents reported multiple positive changes as a result of their participation, including decreased stress and increased parenting strengths.

“Since Parenting Journey, I have a different perspective in life. I take time to listen to my children before making a decision,” said a participant of Parenting Journey 1 at Epiphany. These types of changes have previously been shown to improve parent-child engagement and the ability of parents to buffer their children from stress, promoting optimal child social-emotional development.

In addition to providing the parent program, PJ trained 13 Epiphany staff in PJ Community. The 1.5-day training program brings staff together to develop strong working relationships, examine their work through a strengths-based lens, and improve engagement internally and within their community.

Epiphany offers many different types of support to children and families, including school, daycare, and home visits. Incorporating PJ into these wraparound services boosts the strengthening effects of those other supports, giving parents a dedicated space for building empathy and resilience.

Collaboration is powerful. By enhancing programs, practices, and policies across sectors, partnerships like the ones established by PJ and its nonprofit partners can address the complexity of families’ lives and can create a collective environment that acknowledges parents’ inherent strengths, power, and expertise.

MNN CEO on Drop in Charitable Giving: Bad News – And a Warning Signal

The report, “Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018” issued today by Giving USA, found that charitable giving decreased by 1.7% and that individual giving decreased by $10.4 billion nationwide in 2018. The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) released the following statement from CEO Jim Klocke:

“This is bad news for the people served by nonprofits–and a warning signal about the end of 2019.

When the economy grows, giving should increase, and it usually does. But not in 2018.

As MNN’s Commonwealth Insights reports have outlined, the 2017 federal tax bill raised the cost of giving by 28% for tens of millions of people across the country. When the cost of something goes up by 28%, there will be an impact. Today’s Giving USA report documents the impact–a drop in individual contributions of over $10 billion nationwide in 2018. That drop will have real effects for the people served by nonprofits and the communities they live in, including here in Massachusetts.

Today’s news is a warning signal because not everyone affected by the federal tax bill realized it when they made their 2018 contributions. They do now: many learned that they lost the giving deduction this past spring. The question is now what happens to 2019 individual contributions. There is a real risk that they will drop again, and by even more than $10 billion.

What should we do? First, we should restore the charitable contributions tax deduction for the millions who lost it in 2018. Second, we must make it available to everyone. We should also encourage donors to increase their giving this year, so that the 2018 drop becomes an aberration. MNN is committed to pursuing these strategies that will support the strength, viability, and sustainability of the nonprofit sector.

The people served by nonprofits, and the communities they live in, deserve no less.”

Previous editions of MNN’s Commonwealth Insights reports have explored the potential impact of the 2017 federal tax bill on Massachusetts nonprofits. Click here to download, “From Challenges to Opportunities: How Nonprofits Can Make Sense of the New Tax Law” (2018). Click here to download, “Tax Reform: Up to $513 Million of Massachusetts Donations at Risk” (2017).

MNN Welcomes New and Returning Board Members

Board Members-min

MNN is pleased to announce that eight individuals have been elected by its nonprofit membership to the MNN Board of Directors.

Three new board members have been elected to the Board:

  • Dennis P. Carman, President and Executive Director, United Way of Plymouth County, Southeast Regional Seat
  • Amanda Holm Hartigan, Assistant Director of Programs Data & Insight, The Boston Foundation, At-Large Seat
  • Celina Miranda, Executive Director, Hyde Square Task Force, Greater Boston Regional Seat

In addition, five board members have been re-elected to a second term on the Board:

  • Jacquie Anderson, Senior Director of Grantmaking, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, At-Large Seat
  • Elizabeth Cannon, Executive Director, Lowell Association for the Blind, Northeast Regional Seat
  • Charmane Higgins, Human Rights Seat
  • Eric Masi, Executive Director, Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, Human Services Seat
  • Liana Toscanini, Founder and Executive Director, Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires, Berkshires Regional Seat

“On behalf of MNN’s Board, I am pleased to welcome our new and returning board members,” said Jim Ayres, Chair of the MNN Board and Vice President for Programs and Strategy at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. “They are pillars of the state’s nonprofit sector, and bring invaluable perspectives and experiences to the organization.”

“We’re fortunate to have these eight distinguished professionals on the MNN Board. Each is a great advocate for nonprofits across the Commonwealth,” said Jim Klocke, CEO of MNN.

The board members were elected at MNN’s Annual Meeting, which was held during the Nonprofit Awareness Day ceremony on June 3, 2019 at the Massachusetts State House. Nonprofit members of MNN voted on the slate of candidates via voice vote at the ceremony, or by proxy ballot.

The MNN Board of Directors includes representatives from all eight nonprofit sub-sectors and all regions of Massachusetts, plus at-large members to ensure that the organization is representative of the entire nonprofit sector.

Nonprofit 411: How Does the New Transportation Benefits Tax Impact Nonprofits?

Nonprofit 411 HemBar-minBy Brad Bedingfield, Hemenway & Barnes LLP

To the dismay of charities across the country, costs incurred in providing certain commuting and parking benefits to employees now result in a tax payable by the charity (or other tax-exempt organization).  This odd tax (for expenses incurred after December 31, 2017) can be found in section 512(a)(7) of the Internal Revenue Code.  The tax is framed as a deemed “unrelated business income tax” (or “UBIT”), and the costs that trigger this tax are treated as deemed “unrelated business taxable income” (or “UBTI”).  Treatment of these costs as deemed UBTI affects how the taxes are calculated, and what options an organization may have for avoiding or minimizing the tax.

What costs are taxable? 

For purposes of determining the amount subject to tax, we must focus on costs to the employer, not benefits to the employee.  Costs to provide commuter rail or subway passes, and for certain kinds of bus or van transportation, generally count as deemed UBTI only up to $265 per month (in 2019), whether those costs are incurred directly or by way of pre-compensation reduction arrangements.  Commuter parking benefits provided by way of payments to third-party parking vendors generally work the same way, with a similar effective $265 per employee per month cap in many cases.

However, things get much more complicated when a tax-exempt employer owns and operates its own parking lot or garage.  Countable costs may include a range of things, including employee costs, maintenance, snow and leaf removal, cleanup, insurance, real estate taxes, and so forth (although depreciation on the parking facility does not count as a cost for this purpose).  Once the aggregate costs for parking are tallied, the employer has to find a reasonable way to allocate those costs to employee use.  IRS Notice 2018-99 provides one method of doing that, but each organization should consult with its tax advisors to determine a reasonable method for that organization.

Does Massachusetts impose UBIT?

Massachusetts imposes its own UBIT as well.  Because of the way the Massachusetts tax code references the federal UBIT provisions, it appears that this deemed UBTI for the cost of commuting and parking benefits will be subject to Massachusetts tax for employers in corporate form, but not for employers in trust form.  Like the federal government, Massachusetts requires quarterly estimated payments in advance, although the schedules for payment are not identical.  Other states may have a separate UBIT as well, which may or may not incorporate this new 512(a)(7) tax.

Can the tax be avoided or minimized?

One way to avoid or minimize the tax would be to stop providing commuting or parking benefits (perhaps instead increasing compensation), but that may not be practical.  An organization that has certain kinds of losses attributable to unrelated businesses may be able to use those losses to offset this deemed UBTI, although other changes in the rules have made that more difficult, especially with regard to new (post 2017) losses.  Charitable contributions may be an elegant way to avoid or limit this tax.  Charities in corporate form can generally deduct up to 10 percent of their UBTI for charitable contributions, and those in trust form can generally deduct up to 50 percent.  However, for certain very limited kinds of disaster relief, Congress (by special legislation) allows deductions of up to 100 percent of UBTI.  The organization will still have to file the federal Form 990-T to report the deemed UBTI and claim any deduction, but this can be a handy way to turn a tax into a mission-furthering grant.

Possible repeal of the tax?

Given its bipartisan unpopularity, this tax may be repealed at some point.  For now, however, nonprofits need to be tracking and paying taxes on costs to provide their employees with commuting and parking benefits.

For an in-depth review of the new transportation benefits tax on nonprofits, MNN members can watch my April 19th webinar, “New Transportation Benefits Tax on Nonprofits,” in MNN’s Webinar Archives.

Brad Bedingfield is Co-Chair of the Nonprofit Group at Hemenway & Barnes LLP. Brad assists private foundations and public charities with navigating complex tax regulations and procedures, including receipt and disposition of complex charitable gifts and participation in innovative forms of impactful philanthropy.

Member Spotlight: Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit whose mission is to activate the next wave of ocean leaders through the arts, science, and advocacy. Bow Seat provides a space for teens to connect, create, and communicate for our blue planet through innovative programming that works at the intersection of science and arts education, with a focus on amplifying youth voices to advance dialogue and participation in ocean conservation.

Bow Seat, in partnership with Conservation Law Foundation, launched the 2019 Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge to engage local youth in using their creative voices to highlight the plight of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and the need for conservation of marine ecosystems and resources. The Challenge invited K-12 students from the New England region to create visual art, poetry, and short films that celebrate this iconic species and drive action for its protection.

Bow Seat received more than 130 imaginative and inspiring submissions, including entries from Massachusetts students from Boston to Deerfield and Andover to Pocasset. The Challenge winners and participants were recognized on Sunday, May 5, at an awards ceremony during the Right Whale Festival at the New England Aquarium. This community event featured a student art exhibit, film screenings, presentations by youth conservation leaders, and a panel discussion moderated by National Geographic photojournalist Brian Skerry, who served as a judge for the Challenge. The participants’ pieces will be an important part of an ongoing campaign to inspire awareness, care, and action for right whales and the ocean, which will include future events and art exhibitions.

“I created what I did to inspire people to be mindful of their impact on the ocean. By making this piece, I learned more than I was expecting to; I learned that the whales need our help, that they are beautiful, and that we need to act soon,” said Eliza Goodwin, a Challenge participant.

The Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge was presented with the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs at a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House on May 6, 2019. This award recognizes outstanding efforts to improve energy and environmental literacy in the Commonwealth.