A Program Officer's Pet Peeves - Grantwriting Tips

This is a guest post by Theresa Sondys


As a foundation program officer, I am often asked what it takes to write a winning grant request. It may be easier to tell you the faults that will most certainly make it a losing one.

5. Say what? Avoid using overly academic, abstract, vague or pontificating language. Make the proposal easy to read and understand for anyone. What we don’t understand we don’t fund.

4. Budget Woes. The budget should be well-justified, show both revenues and expenses, and – most importantly – add up properly. After all, if you can’t manage your money, why should we give you any of ours?

3. What are you going to do? The key to a strong proposal is proving the likelihood that it will achieve its goals. When you write your objectives, follow the acronymic advice: “Keep them S-I-M-P-L-E.” Your objectives should be:

  • Specific – precisely what you intend to change through the project
  • Immediate – the time frame during which a problem will be addressed
  • Measurable – exactly how you will measure success
  • Practical – how each objective is a real solution to a real problem
  • Logical – how each objective systematically contributes to achieving your overall goal(s)
  • Evaluable – how much change has to occur for the project to be effective

2. A proposal that doesn’t fit – Research potential funders thoroughly and contact the funder to clear up any questions in your mind. Make sure your proposal matches the funder’s mission and objectives. Never ignore a funder’s guidelines in the hopes of ‘fitting’ your program into their niche. It almost never works.

1. Follow the instructions – When dealing with any funder, read the instructions before applying – then follow them (i.e., if the instructions say to double space the proposal, don’t single space.) Some foundations will throw out your proposal for this small, seemingly unimportant error.

 Theresa Sondys

Theresa L. Sondys is the Senior Program Officer of Metro Health Foundation, a Detroit-based private philanthropy dedicated to helping metropolitan Detroit organizations meet the community’s health needs. Theresa does extensive work in the southeastern Michigan community. She is currently a member of the board of directors of The MINDS Program, President-Emeritus of Hamtramck United Social Services (a/k/a HUSS); and has served as president and chairman of various non-profit boards and coalitions. A woman of many talents, Theresa has held a variety of different positions including Legal Secretary, Administrative Manager, and Inspector for Nonconforming Material on a nuclear power construction site. An accomplished vocalist and author of two novels (The Pink Lady and Star-Crossed Murders), she is also an experienced speaker who has taught  workshops and seminars on Program Planning, Introduction to Proposal Writing, Grant-Writing, etc. Mother of two children, Theresa will be celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary later this summer.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 26, 2012, 12:00 PM

Philanthropy Statistics - Corporate and Community Foundations

philanthropy statistics

Foundation grantmaking seems to be stablizing, according to the State of Grantseeking Spring 2011 report that PhilanTech and GrantStation recently released.

While the information in that survey was drawn from grantseekers (nonprofits and other entities that are recipients of grants), new figures just published by the Foundation Center suggest that giving decreased in 2010, though it decreased less than it had the previous two years.  Reflecting a sense of cautious optimism, a slight majority of foundations expect their giving to increase in 2011.

A few numbers:

  • Corporate foundation giving increased 0.2% in 2010.  When adjusted for inflation, corporate foundation giving actually decreased by 1.6%;
  • The amount of corporate foundation giving - $4.7 billion - is virtually unchanged for the past couple of years;
  • 52% of corporate foundations expect their giving to increase in 2011;
  • Community foundation giving overall decreased 2.1%, following a 7.1% decrease the previous year;
  • Interestingly, community foundations reported a median increase of 2.5%;
  • While community foundation giving dropped from a high of $4.5 billion in 2008 to $4 billion in 2010, 50% of community foundations expect giving to increase in 2011, while an additional 16% predict that their giving will remain steady;
  • Community foundations represent the fastest-growing segment of foundation giving (adjusted for inflation) since 2000 (49% growth, compared to 24% for corporate foundations and 20% for independent foundations).

Both community foundations and corporate foundations currently account for approximately 10% of total foundation giving (with operating foundations accounding for another tenth, and independent foundations comprising the balance of foundation giving at approximately 70%). 

Given that independent foundations are the largest segment of foundation grant funds by quite a margin, it's difficult envisioning a return to pre-recession giving levels until foundation assets have recovered.  The good news is that foundation assets increased 5% in 2010; the bad news is that, at $621 billion, they are still quite shy of the pre-recession high of $682 billion.  With the rolling three-year average used by most private foundations to determine the 5% required annual expenditure, we may yet be in for a couple of years of recovery before foundation giving fully returns.



Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pdjsphotos/5577447583/
Author: Dahna Goldstein
May 02, 2011, 11:32 AM

Challenging Four Prevailing Wisdoms in the Nonprofit Sector

sharing in the nonprofit sector

In yesterday’s post, The Recession and Transforming the Nonprofit Sector, I wrote about Dr. Paul Light’s webinar about emerging trends in the nonprofit sector and my major takeaway that we need to challenge prevailing wisdoms in the nonprofit sector in order to transform the sector and emerge from the financial crisis as a strong, viable whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Here are four prevailing wisdoms and modus operandi that we need to challenge:

Low overhead = good organization.  

Charity Navigator, to its credit, is working to revamp its rating system to focus on things other than administrative versus program expenses, but the effects of years of promoting low overhead as a performance metric have taken their toll on the nonprofit sector.  What can we do?  Nonprofits can work to educate their donors.  Step one: stop promoting your organization’s overhead ratio in your marketing materials.

Restricted grants are the best/only way to meet donor intent

Despite numerous calls from nonprofits, associations of nonprofits, and other groups, foundations continue to mostly give restricted grants rather than general/operating support.  I find this, honestly, baffling.  While foundations are restricted themselves by donor intent, I don’t think many donors’ intents were to make operating difficult for the organizations they wanted to support.  To follow up on the previous prevailing wisdom, there are necessary and beneficial overhead expenses in nonprofit organizations.  Particularly in times of economic distress, funding to keep the lights on, pay the fundraising staff, and cover the rent is absolutely essential to organizations’ ability to perform their missions. 

What can we do?  Foundations can continue to move towards providing more general/operating support.  And nonprofits can ask for it.  Frame needs not in terms of deficits, but opportunity – not, “we need general/operating support so that we don’t have to lay off a staff person,” but, “we need general/operating support so that we can continue to grow a strong organization that delivers the valuable services that your funding dollars generously support.”

Competition for funding dollars means we can’t share information

Yes, nonprofits compete for funding.  And the competition is tough.  Foundations, governments, and individual donors have limited funds, and, filled with good intent, can only give them to a limited number of organizations.  And information is valuable in the fundraising process.  What makes your organization’s programs successful might be the very thing that differentiates you enough to get the grant or the large donation.  But information hoarding comes at a cost to the sector and to the constituents we’re trying to serve.  Organizations that operate in similar fields or geographic areas, or work with the same set of constituents end up reinventing wheels.  Constantly.  Funders then fund similar programs that result in similar knowledge that could be shared with significantly magnified impact.  But the incentives don’t exist for organizations to share information about impact and outcomes – except when funders require it (and then, frequently, the funders don’t share). 

What can we do?  Funders can ask for information about outcomes, impact, what works, what doesn’t (see talking about failure below), with the explicit intent to share that information broadly with related organizations (both funders and those organizations delivering related services).  Funders can do that in a way that doesn’t require nonprofits to adhere to an arbitrary (or funder-determined) set of outcomes measures that doesn’t align with the organization’s own evaluation and tracking mechanisms, but rather one that encourages grantees to track information, learn from it, and share it.  Nonprofits can think a bit more broadly about what information, shared with other organizations (even competitors) would ultimately best serve their constituents.  In other words, if sharing information about what’s working and what isn’t in your programs would help your constituents (and help you better meet your mission), shouldn’t you do it?  What if other organizations also shared more information?  Wouldn’t the ability to learn from their experiences help you serve your constituents better (and help you better meet your mission)?  What little steps can you take to start sharing information that will contribute to a rising tide to lift all constituent and mission boats?  Of course, you shouldn’t share everything, but think about what information truly needs to be kept, and what can be shared.

Talking about failure will hurt your organization

There was an episode of Family Ties where Alex P. Keaton went to interview at Princeton University, his dream school.  When asked about what unique qualities he possessed, he responded, “At the risk of sounding immodest, you see before you a young man without a flaw…unless, of course, you find me immodest, in which I have one flaw” (watch the video, starting at 7:39).  While the nonprofit sector generally doesn’t resemble an 80s sitcom, there is a prevailing notion in the nonprofit sector that organizations must present themselves the way Alex did in the interview – that they must be perceived to be perfect or else risk losing funding opportunities.  Discussing failed programs and initiatives, according to the prevailing wisdom, risks losing future funding opportunities.  The fear is very real – many funders would rather hear about successes, and worry that continuing to invest in an organization that has failed to deliver a program risks throwing good money after bad. 

This is a very difficult notion to combat.  Some funders are starting to discuss failures (recently an notably, the Northwest Area Foundation), and need to encourage their grantees to do so as well – but need to make it clear to grantees that they will not be penalized.  This is a cultural shift that needs to happen for the betterment of the sector – foundations (and individual donors) need to encourage, even reward, sharing and openly discussing failures and need to make it abundantly clear to grantees that they will not be penalized for their openness and self-reflection.  And it needs to go a step further.  The benefit of discussing failures is the ability to learn from them – and to have others learn from them so that we, as a sector, can build on collective wisdom and generated knowledge to better serve our constituents and our missions.


What do you think?  What are the prevailing wisdoms that foundations and nonprofits need to challenge in order to transform the sector and shape a strong emergence from the recession?


Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wooandy/220929743/

Author: Dahna Goldstein
February 24, 2011, 02:00 PM

The Recession and Transforming the Nonprofit Sector

I just attended a webinar hosted by the Nonprofit Quarterly that featured Dr. Paul Light, NYU Wagner's Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service, about emerging trends in the nonprofit sector.

Dr. Light is well known in the sector for, among other things, his gloomy 2008 prediction that up to 100,000 nonprofits would close as a result of the economic downturn.  While the number of nonprofits that have gone under in the intervening years is difficult to quantify (nonprofits do not necessarily report to the IRS when they close their doors), Dr. Light indicated that numerous sources have cited closures and mergers in the nonprofit sector.  In addition, the IRS is likely to revoke 501(c)(3) status from between 50,000 and 100,000 nonprofits as a result of their failure to file required reports with the IRS.  At the same time, though, the IRS approved 60,000 new exempt organizations last year.

In his 2008 article entitled, "Four Futures," Dr. Light explored four possible paths the nonprofit sector might take as a result of the economic downturn:

  1. The rescue fantasy (an idealistic scenario where the nonprofit sector is "saved" by the kindness of strangers and giving remains at high levels)
  2. A withering winterland (in which every nonprofit feels the financial and resource pain of an economic downturn)
  3. An arbitrary winnowing (in which those organizations that have the most resources continue to have the most resources, and others falter, purely based on size, scale, marketing, etc., rather than the quality of services provided)
  4. Transformation (in which the sector sees the economic downturn as an opportunity to reinvent itself)

While the rescue fantasy clearly hasn't occurred (though Dr. Light noted that for a limited number of organizations, the economic stimulus package provided a version of this fantasy), it seems a combination of the other three have – and will likely continue.

The silver lining to an otherwise sobering scenario is that the nonprofit sector continues to have an opportunity to transform itself.  Dr. Light specifically mentioned alliances and advocacy as areas where we can take more control of our own fate than we have been: the nonprofit sector, when speaking with a unified voice, is a powerful institution.  We need to mobilize that voice to urge legislators at both federal and state levels not to continue cutting nonprofits' funding and delaying payments.  We need to challenge the prevailing wisdom that appears rampant among legislators that nonprofits will always be around, regardless of how aggressively their budgets are impacted by legislation and the economy.

nonprofit sector transformation

The notion of challenging prevailing wisdom really struck me.  The nonprofit sector still has a ways to go in emerging from the financial crisis in which we’ve found ourselves for the last several years, and I think there are several prevailing wisdoms within our own sector and modus operandi that we need to challenge.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post – Challenging Four Prevailing Wisdoms.


Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/_brilho-de-conta/400937249/

Author: Dahna Goldstein
February 23, 2011, 04:06 PM

Philanthropy Statistics – The New Normal

donations welcome

In the post-economic-collapse nonprofit world, nonprofit leaders and fundraisers are increasingly talking about “the new normal,” getting used to the fact that fundraising as we knew it pre-Lehman Brothers and pre-housing bubble burst is no longer our reality.

(Sean Stannard-Stockton, writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy this week, traces the root of the term “the new normal” to Mohamed El-Erian in his book When Markets Collide.  Mr. El-Erian uses the term to describe the post-recession economy; others in our sector, including Bob Ottenhoff of GuideStar, have applied it specifically to the nonprofit sector.)

Numerous studies have shown that the economic recovery is slow, and economic recoveries in the nonprofit sector have historically lagged behind the economy as a whole.  Many other studies, including the State of Grantseeking 2010 (published by PhilanTech and GrantStation), have pointed to distressing numbers that continue to emerge relating to levels of giving and the difficulties nonprofits face securing enough resources to deliver critical programs.

The Chronicle this week indicated that, despite the much-lauded Giving Pledge, America’s wealthiest donors gave the smallest collective amount to charity that they have given since the Chronicle started tracking these large gifts in 2000.  (At $3.3B, it’s nothing to sneeze at, but still a decrease from years past.)

The Blackbaud Index of Charitable Giving, which analyzed giving information from 1,468 nonprofits, indicated that giving was up in 2010 over 2009 (for Sept – Nov), but only by 0.3 percent.

The Chronicle was more optimistic, indicating that 24% of charities in a recent survey said that year-end giving had increased by 20% or more over 2009 levels.  Within that optimistic report, however, another 28% of charities reported that giving had dropped over the prior year, and 10% noted that giving had remained flat.

I think there’s another factor to consider in the new normal: online giving.  While online giving remains a small percentage of individual donations to nonprofits, it is on the rise.  Network for Good’s Online Giving Index demonstrates some positive trends in online giving:

  • The value of donations through charity websites increased 13% over 2009.  An interesting and valuable note: donations through branded charity sites (i.e., sites that look like the nonprofit’s website rather than a generic donation page) increased 14% versus a 9% increase for a generic donation page;
  • In the height of giving season (just before the holidays), donations increased 18% over 2009;
  • While giving portals are increasing in popularity and use (e.g., about a quarter of the donations in December were through a charity portal), the average size of those donations was $155 versus an average $172 through a nonprofit’s website.

While the stats above are specific to Network for Good, individuals are giving through other online giving platforms as well.  For example, giving through JustGive.org grew 70% in 2010 to $30 million.

This (along with other studies) suggests to me that more online donations – though possibly at a lower average value – are becoming part of the new normal, and that nonprofits need to continue to cultivate multiple channels for donations, even as the economy continues to recover and nonprofits deal with smaller budgets than their pre-recession standings.

What do you think?  Is giving likely to return to pre-recession levels?  Is online giving becoming the new normal in charitable giving?


image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/howardlake/4989727036/

Author: Dahna Goldstein
February 09, 2011, 11:17 AM

Let's Talk About Tech, Baby

Note: this post originally appeared on NTEN's blog on Jan 12, 2011, co-authored with the lovely and talented Marc Baizman, Owner, My Computer Guy Nonprofit Technology Consulting, and Simone Parrish, Knowledge Manager, Innovation Network.

dahna goldsteinmarc baizmansimone parrish


"Let's talk about tech, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let's talk about tech"

While Salt-N-Pepa had something different in mind when they wrote those lyrics (well, almost those lyrics) in 1990, they captured the essence of how to talk about technology in nonprofit organizations. A close read of the lyrics provides a good framework for thinking about communicating horizontally (across departments or silos) and vertically (with everyone from senior management to interns) in your organization about technology.

No, really.

Let's break it down.

Let's Talk about Tech, Baby

As simple as it may seem, making the commitment to talk about technology in your organization is a good start. In many organizations, technology is viewed as separate from the work the organization is doing. Technology is the unintuitive phone system, the frustrating donor management system, the computer that blue screens every time it has more than three windows open. In that scenario, nonprofit workers feel like technology is something they have to deal with to do the "real work," not something that can make their work lives and their organization better at meeting its mission (which is what NTEN believes, so strongly they wrote a book about it).

Our challenge is to elevate discussion about technology from the tactical (ensuring that the computers turn on, that the organization chooses the right content management system for its website) to the strategic (what is our social media strategy, how can we use technology to give our field workers immediate access to case information) so that technology can help make the organization more effective at combating poverty, saving wildlife, or whatever the organization's mission is.

The first step is to understand how your organization is structured, and how it views technology. From there, you can start to understand where to begin conversations. Start talking to folks who "get" technology--there are probably many of them who don't work in the IT department. Ask them what challenges they currently face in their jobs and talk about ways that strategically-implemented technology could help them.

Is your ED a technophobe? What about other senior management? How about your board members? Start thinking about success stories that you can share with your organization. Share how an organization similar to yours was able to strategically use technology to increase its impact. Ask on listservs (ProgEx, NTEN Affinity Groups, ISF Yahoo group, etc.) to get success stories.

Technology needs a seat at the table when your organization is doing its strategic planning. Technology can't be something that's added into the process once the plan is set; it needs to be an integral part of the process from the beginning. Start planting the seed now for including someone in those conversations who can bring a strategic technology perspective, whether it's you or one of your colleagues.

Let's Talk about You (and Me)

If this blog post were all about us (the authors), you would have stopped reading by now -- and rightly so. But that's the meta-message here: You can get your message across better if you keep the focus on your audience. That is, "Let's talk about You (and me)" -- mostly you, and a little bit me.

This approach works especially well for talking about technology issues. Many non-tech people (i.e., people who aren't responsible for the technical decisions in your organization; all humans are tech people) will only tolerate a technical discussion if they can see immediately how it helps them. Listen to what they need. What work issues annoy them most? Are there technical solutions to those issues, or can technology help address particular inefficiencies? Just remember that no amount of technology can fix a broken process.

Another important aspect of the "let's talk about you" is that your tech conversation will go a lot better if it's in terms your audience will understand. This is not the time for jargon -- save that for talking to your developers (or your NTEN listserv buds). We live inside the tech jargon bubble, so it's easy to forget that not everyone does. Using metaphors that relate to real life can be a big help.

If you burst into your Executive Director's office to tell her that "RHEL 3.0 is going end-of-life!", you're not going to get very far. She is just going to be alarmed, confused, and annoyed that you're wasting her time, because to her, you sound like Charlie Brown's teacher. On the other hand, explaining to her that, "The computer that runs our website has some really old software on it; we need to fix it. It's like coming home and finding the basement is starting to flood" -- now that, she'll understand. "Stopping the website basement from flooding" makes more sense to her than "RHEL 3 is going end-of-life, or even "Our webhosts are going to stop supporting the server's operating system". (Wa wa, wa wa wa wa.)

Let's Talk about All the Good Things And the Bad Things that May Be

It's worth your while to try to see things from the non-tech-person's perspective, and to make sure you understand what benefits they will see from a technology investment. They will be much more likely to listen to you if they can see the concrete benefits to their own work, in terms like "save me time" and "make these five tasks easier" and "get me out of doing pointless double data entry."

Another great approach is to go straight to mission: How is this tech solution going to get your organization closer to meeting its mission? For example, Simone works for an evaluation organization. Their mission is to provide knowledge and expertise to help nonprofits and funders learn from their work to improve their results. Over the past couple of years, they have been dabbling, and then wading, in data visualization techniques. Making the case for this -- for the professional development time and for the cost of various tools -- has been easy, because it goes straight to their mission. The case goes like this: We want to provide knowledge and expertise. Many people in their audience will absorb knowledge better from informative (and shiny!) graphics than from exhaustive (and exhausting) narratives or spreadsheets. Therefore, it's worth their while as an organization to devote time to learning how to present data visually.

It's also important to talk about the bad things, and acknowledging problems and failures can be very powerful (and scary!) for an organization. Nonprofits -- just like people -- are often leery of talking about mistakes, because of the fear that it could cost them funding. But talking about the mistakes and sharing that can be a wellspring of learning.

We hope this has given you an overview of how to talk to about Tech, baby! For more Salt-n-Pepa Lyrics, check out this Youtube video.

And for more fun nonprofit tech talk, check out our upcoming session at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
January 20, 2011, 06:21 PM

B Corporations Help Nonprofits Align Spending with Mission

BCorp logo

Note: this post originally appeared on GuideStar's Trust Blog on January 18th, 2011.

Nonprofits in the U.S. spent $1.3 trillion in 2007, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics.  That money was spent delivering needed services, providing salaries and benefits to employees, and paying for tools and professional services.  

Nonprofits now have a way to align their spending with their missions: B Corporations for Nonprofits.

B Corporations are a new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  Certified by a nonprofit called B Lab, B Corporations must achieve a passing score in a comprehensive survey that evaluates social and environmental responsibility.  There are over 365 B Corporations in 30 industries, and several of them are specifically dedicated to serving the needs of nonprofit organizations.

A group of B Corporations has joined together to raise awareness among nonprofits of the services that B Corporations can offer and the benefits of working with suppliers that, while structured as for-profit businesses, are dedicated to social and environmental responsibility.  

At a press conference at Busboys and Poets (also a B Corporation) in Washington, DC on Tuesday, January 18, representatives from Care2, PhilanTech, PICnet and Better World Telecom announced the formation of B Corps for Nonprofits and the launch of the www.bcorpsfornonprofits.com website.

B Corporations for Nonprofits are Certified B Corporations that earn more than 50 percent of their revenue from nonprofit clients, and/or that have a client base that is at least nonprofit organizations.

In addition to Care2, PhilanTech, PICnet, and Better World Telecom, B Corps for Nonprofits includes Mal Warwick | Donordigital, Free Range Studios, Green Retirement Plans, The Soap Group and Social K.

There are three things that make B Corporations that serve the nonprofit sector different:

  1. B Corps are not like other companies. They are social entrepreneurs with "do-gooder missions" similar to – and complementary with – the vital missions of nonprofit organizations.
  2. B Corps for Nonprofits proudly focus on serving nonprofits as their primary clients. Nonprofits are not a "sideshow" to these organizations – they are the "Main Event!"
  3. B Corps have committed to "walk the walk," not just "talk the talk," of social responsibility. They do this by meeting or exceeding a set of specific, measurable B Corporation standards, including workplace diversity, carbon neutrality, recycling and waste reduction, donating a portion of profits to good causes, etc.

Nonprofits frequently want to know that their vendors are “good” companies.  B Corporations are values-driven companies.  They are dedicated to pursuing social and environmental bottom lines while also being sustainable businesses. They have been independently vetted and verified by a third party as beneficial companies.  As such, nonprofits can feel confident that the money they spend with B Corporations has positive social and environmental impacts.

Next time you’re looking for a new website, social action network, grant management system, phone network, benefits plan, or a number of other services, remember that the company you choose can be one that is aligned with your organization’s mission and values.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
January 18, 2011, 05:26 PM

Good News, Bad News - Philanthropy Statistics

holiday birdhouse

It's that time of year when nonprofits and donors are thinking about year-end gifts.  Nonprofits have hopefully long since planned their year-end fundraising appeals, and are now just putting them in place (and not only hoping for good numbers, but working to make them happen) and donors are thinking about whether to make donations in lieu of gifts for the holidays (using sites like JustGive), or how to maximize their charitable tax deductions at the end of the year.

Just in time, comes some good news for nonprofits.  A recent study by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund indicates that a majority of donors (55%) intend to maintain their level of charitable giving for the end of the year.  And for those reducing their giving (as a result of the financial markets or uncertainty in the tax environment), the vast majority say giving is still important to them (which may not be helpful for year-end fundraising goals, but bodes well long term).

Enough nonprofits are optimistic about the current state of fundraising that 47% of respondents to a recent survey are planning budget increases for 2011, while 33 percent anticipate maintaining their budgets at cuurent levels.

Now the bad news.  37% percent of respondents to the same study (The Nonprofit Research Collaborative's November 2010 Fundraising Survey) indicated that giving fell in the first nine months of 2010 as compared with the first nine months of 2009.  You may recall that 2009 was not a great year, so giving numbers continuing to fall in 2010 suggests that even more nonprofits faced budget shortages, had to cut back services, and have even steeper hills to climb to try to get back to their pre-recession funding levels.  Additionally, more organizations have laid off or cut back staff, and are using volunteers to fill roles that were formerly paid positions.  And not surprisingly, the organizations that are faring the best are the larger organizations, which is consistent with other research, including The State of Grantseeking 2010.

Here's hoping that the end of 2010 and start of 2011 will lean towards more good news than bad.


(Full disclosure, I serve on JustGive's board.)

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/deniscollette/4219436820/

Author: Dahna Goldstein
November 29, 2010, 07:38 PM

Resources for Nonprofits - Tax Relief for Non-Filing Nonprofits

There has been much discussion in the nonprofit sector - at least in certain circles - about the number of nonprofits that risk losing their tax exemption because they failed to file tax returns for three years.

Apparently, there has not been enough talk.  As of May 2010, there were up to 300,000 organizations at risk of losing their tax exemption, according to the National Center for Chariable Statistics.  While some of those organizations have since filed returns, there are still thousands of nonprofits at risk.

A bit of backstory: most tax exempt organizations have always been required to file returns.  The type of return required depended on the size of the organization, but some sort of return had to be submitted.  The IRS did not really enforce this, particularly for small organizations.  Once the exemption ruling was given, the organization generally remained exempt so long as nothing dramatic caused a revocation.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 changed that.  A provision in the Act required most organizations to file a return (again, the type of return differed) annually.  Those that failed to file for three consecutive years would automatically lose their exemption, and not necessarily be able to get it back.

The original deadline to meet the three-year filing requirement was May 17.  The IRS has created a one-time filing relief program for organizations that had filing deadlines between May 17 and October 15. 

In an interesting social media/web 2.0 move, the IRS has created a widget to help organizations identify if they are at risk of losing their exemption.  Check it out to see if your organization -- or another organization in your community -- is at risk, and file your organization's return to avoid losing tax exempt status!

Author: Dahna Goldstein
September 28, 2010, 05:51 PM

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