Sunday, December 26, 2010

Many nonprofits see year-end gains

Crain's NY Business reported that more than half of 181 nonprofits surveyed by the Chronicle of Philanthropy said they've raised more this November and December than the same time a year ago.

Although they aren’t raising as much money as they did before the recession, many nonprofits report that donations are up from last year. More than half, 53%, of 181 nonprofits surveyed by the Chronicle of Philanthropy say they have raised more so far this November and December than the same time a year ago. One in five said their donations had jumped by at least 20%.

The NYC Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association raised $1.1 million for its Memory Walk this year, up 7% from the previous year. And revenue from its Forget-Me-Not gala jumped 17%.

UJA-Federation of New York’s Wall Street & Financial Services Division raised a whopping $19.5 million at its gala dinner earlier this month, more than it has in the last three years and close to the event’s record of $21 million from before the financial crisis.

And Gods Love We Deliver, which like many charities raises more than 25% of its annual revenue in December, has seen the size of its average direct-mail gift increase to $57 this holiday season, from $51 last year.

“We’re very encouraged by the early results,” said David Ludwigson, chief development officer for Gods Love. “We were more targeted in our mailing so we mailed 20% fewer pieces, but we’ve gotten more gifts in.”

Not everyone is enjoying the holiday cheer however, and in some cases it’s lacking for those who need it most.

City Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to the homebound elderly, is down $132,000, or 5%, so far in its direct-mail campaign. That loss translates into about 20,000 fewer meals that the charity can serve.

“This is the first year in my 29-year history here that this has happened,” said Marcia Stein, executive director of City Meals.

Ms. Stein said she doesn’t have a reason for the decline, but that perhaps people have donor fatigue.

“In the depth of the recession, I was astounded by how many people gave us eye-popping amounts,” she said. “It could be that people are now spending their money on personal purchases that they had delayed, and less on helping those who are more needy."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dyson Foundation buys Children's Museum building for $1.4 million

The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum sold its North Water Street property to the Dyson Foundation for $1.4 million and has entered into a long-term lease that enables the family-centered nonprofit to maintain its base of operations at the waterfront location.

Leaders from the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum and the Dyson Foundation described the transaction as an innovative partnership that will benefit the Children’s Museum while helping to secure the stability of the Poughkeepsie waterfront, which is facing increased development pressures following the success of the Walkway Over the Hudson and new projects slated for the area. All proceeds from the sale went to retire the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum’s entire mortgage debt on the property.

“We believe this partnership is in the best interests of the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, our many members, and the nearly 60,000 children and parents that are enlightened by our work each year,” said Tracy Cass MacKenzie, President of the Museum’s Board of Directors. “We anticipate continuing operations at the 75 North Water Street property for a long time.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$100 and Under

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

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

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

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

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

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

$300 to $4,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$5,000 to $10,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$20,000 and Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Article by Kelly Greene from

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SBA, Microsoft create technology guide, online course

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

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

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

The course is available at

Winners and losers among NY's top nonprofits

Crain's annual list of the largest nonprofits shows some surprising results.

The recession didn't hurt all nonprofits last year.

The Institute of International Education, a 91-year-old nonprofit that creates international study and training programs, and manages the renowned Fulbright Program for the U.S. government, actually increased its operating budget a whopping 18.4% in fiscal year 2010 to $342.4 million.

Executives at the IIE attributed their success last year to having a wide range of international donors.

“The IIE is fortunate to have a diverse set of program sponsors and donors, including some government and private sector funders outside the United States and in sectors that were less affected by the economy,” said Peggy Blumenthal, chief operating officer of the nonprofit.

In addition, the IIE administers programs for private foundations and corporations that expanded their international training initiatives last year, Ms. Blumenthal said.

The increase bumped the IIE up to third place from fifth on Crain's annual ranking of the 25 largest nonprofits in the New York area, which was released Monday.

[Learn more by downloading the full Crain's list.]

The Top 5 nonprofits on Crain's list also include the United States Fund for UNICEF & Affiliate, the New York Blood Center Inc., the International Rescue Committee Inc., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The IRC, which helps refugees around the world, also grew its operating budget last year to $312.9 million from $287.8 million the previous year. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF slightly cut its budget to $433.8 million from $483.6 million; and the budget for the New York Blood Center remained the same.

The Met suffered more than other institutions during the economic downturn. Because of a drop in donations and losses in its endowment, the museum was forced to cut its operating budget to $289.2 million for fiscal 2010, which ended June 30, from $309.5 million the previous year. The cuts pushed the museum down to fifth place on the list from third the previous year.

Thomas Campbell, the museum's director, said despite the budget cuts, the museum managed to sustain its full exhibition and educational program and keep all of its galleries open.

“While the ongoing financial challenges call for rigor and discipline in expenditures and programmatic priorities, the museum is fundamentally sound,” Mr. Campbell said. “With its outstanding collections, talented staff, and devoted supporters, the Met will weather the economic challenges, just as it has weathered previous challenges in its 139-year existence.”