Friday, September 7, 2012

Nonprofits Testify In Favor Of Specialty Plates

Leaders from nonprofit groups testified before Indiana lawmakers Wednesday, urging them not to stop the sale of specialty license plates, which they say account for much of their fundraising.

According to a report from CBS News, a legislative study committee heard about an hour of testimony on the subject from representatives from local nonprofits such as the Indianapolis Zoo. The issue of specialty plates first arose last year when conservative lawmakers attempted to kill the sale of plates for the Indiana Youth Group (IYG), an organization for gay youth. That effort failed but the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) eventually took away plate privileges from IYG and two other nonprofits, accusing the organizations of trading low-digit plates for contributions.

IYG maintains they did nothing wrong.

Nonprofit leaders who testified Wednesday said that plate programs are a legitimate public-private partnership that help organizations provide services for which the state would usually pay. Individuals pay $40 for the specialty plates, with $25 going to the organization and $15 going to the BMV. There are currently 459,000 of these plates on cars in Indiana.

"From the tax revenue standpoint, the specialty plate program is a win-win-win for the State of Indiana," said Charles Hyde, director of membership for the Indianapolis Zoo.

Sen. Earline Rogers (D-Gary) questioned the wisdom of the Legislature approving which groups would receive plates, saying that politics could enter the equation. Meanwhile, former state legislator and treasurer Joyce Brinkman testified that lawmakers should only issue plates to organizations whose activities help state services. She also recommended a regulatory system be put in place, something to which nonprofit organizers said they would be receptive.

Committee Chairman Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) said that Wednesday's hearing would be the only one on specialty plates before the panel reports to the Legislature, which is expected to take up the issue in January.

You can read the full story on CBS News' website.

5 Ways To Keep Your Online Devices Safe

Most devices in offices these days are connected to the Internet. Whether it's the standard computer or a smartphone, our technology is online nearly 24/7. While this is mostly a good thing, it also has risks. If you aren't careful, you could be on the receiving end of a virus that could severely hamper the hard work of your organization.

Thankfully, there are ways to safeguard your devices from such risks.

In "Nonprofit Management 101," Holly Ross, executive director of Portland, Ore.-based Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), wrote that it's extremely important for organizations to take the safety of their devices seriously. She recommended using the following five techniques to ensure that your operations continue to run smoothly:
  • Firewall: This is basically a gate between the outside world and your network of computers. It’s essential that you have a firewall set up to keep spammers, hackers, and other malicious people from infiltrating your network to use it for nefarious purposes.
  • Antivirus protection: Antivirus software should be installed on each of the computers on your network. Worms and viruses continue to be written every day, so it’s essential that you purchase the regular update packages for whichever program you choose to use.
  • Backup: Most people view backing up as insurance for extreme situations such as natural disasters, but the backup is most important in many day-to-day situations.
  • Passwords: The simplest thing you can do to protect your organization’s data and files is to put in place a strong password policy. Ensure that staff are both using different passwords for logins and changing their passwords frequently.
  • Physical security: Equipment like laptops, printers, and desktop computers should be secured to desks with cable locks so they can’t be removed.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How To Minimize Risk From Employees

In the nonprofit world, risk usually comes from two sources: Employees or process.

According to Melanie Lockwood Herman in “Ready…Or Not: A Risk Management Guide for Nonprofit Executives,” process-based risks are much easier to handle. If there is something in the organization that isn't working, all you need to do is determine the best possible steps to address the issue.

Dealing with risk from employees is a little trickier.

As opposed to process risks, Herman said that people risks are best addressed through prevention, detection, and correction. This is done through these four steps:
  • Creating policies and procedures that clarify job responsibilities and standards of permitted and prohibited conduct.
  • Communicating the nonprofit’s policies through written policy materials, online resources, and in-person briefings. You should also consider making policies available in multiple formats.
  • Designing employee and volunteer training to address key aspects of the job and recommended approaches for coping with adversity and undesirable circumstances.
  • Holding all personnel accountable for the organization’s key risk management policies.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Liberty Mutual To Up Charitable Giving

Liberty Mutual will increase its charitable giving in Massachusetts this year, at the same time as other major financial institutions in Boston plan to maintain their previous levels of support.

According to an article in The Boston Globe, the Boston-based insurance company will up local donations to $17 million, an estimated 20 percent increase from the $14.2 million it distributed last year. This change is being made possible largely because of the company's signing of a three-year, $8 million deal renewing its sponsorship of the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular.

The insurance giant is also donating $1 million in nonprofit grants to promote its 100th anniversary. One of these grants will be used to conduct a series of public concerts in Boston.

“We care deeply about the community,” Melissa MacDonnell, director of Liberty Mutual’s philanthropy programs, said in a statement. “We were born here 100 years ago, and we’ve grown to become an international company in 27 countries.”

While Liberty Mutual is increasing its donations, other institutions that have large operations in Boston are staying at their previous giving levels. Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, which is struggling with millions of dollars in losses stemming from its purchase of the mortgage company Countrywide, announced it would give $12 million to Massachusetts charities. This is the same amount the bank has given in previous years.

John Hancock also announced its donations would be staying the same, with a spokesperson saying the company expects to donate $11.5 million locally, which is around the same number as last year. The financial services company had already raised $6.8 million for nonprofits this year, thanks to a sponsorship program with the Boston Marathon.

You can read the full story in The Boston Globe.

Online Advocacy And You

As the 2012 presidential election starts to heat up, it's important for nonprofit managers to give themselves a refresher course on the rules governing their organizations when it comes to advocacy.

In the newest issue of The NonProfit Times, guest authors Janice M. Ryan and Ronald M. Jacobs go over what a 501(c)(3) organization can and cannot do during the election season. If done correctly, an organization can do the following things:

  • Help register voters;
  • Conduct get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activities;
  • Publish voter guides;
  • Create candidate questionnaires;
  • Host candidate appearances;
  • Host debates;
  • Conduct issue advocacy;
  • Allow leadership and staff to be politically active; and,
  • Create an affiliated organization.

One of the most popular forms of advocacy these days is the online variety, and there are additional rules governing them. According to Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum and Lisa M. Hix of Venable LLP, organizations must be wary of election-related content they post on their web sites. As stated in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Rev. Rul. 2007-41, "If an organization posts something on its web site that favors or opposes a candidate for political office, the organization will be treated the same as if it distributed printed material, oral statements or broadcasts the favored or opposed candidate."

This is something you want to avoid, obviously, so Tenenbaum and Hix offered the following ideas to make sure your nonprofit follows the rules while still remaining involved in the political process:

  • A link to candidate-related material alone will not constitute political campaign intervention.
  • Facts demonstrating that the link is not campaign intervention include: All candidates for an office are represented, and exempt purpose is served by offering the link and the link does not directly connect the organization?s website to a Web page that contains material favoring or opposing a candidate for public office.
  • Organizations should carefully monitor content, and links. A website that contains a view of legislation, as well as a link to a voting legislator's email, will be considered a "call to action."
  • Check sites for links added inadvertently or without authorization.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Issue: September 1, 2012

The September 1 edition of NPT focuses a number of major issues in the nonprofit sector today, from professional development to management concerns. Let's take a look at the articles and columns that appear in this issue:

Special Report 


Articles

  • Mergers Keep Doors Open, Refocuses Management: It’s unclear precisely how many charities have closed as a direct result of the recession or whether they’ve merged with other nonprofits. At the very least, industry analysts say, there’s much more discussion about mergers and strategic alliances or partnerships these days.
  • Musical Chairs At Komen, Brinker Stays And Goes: A media firestorm regarding pink powerhouse Susan G. Komen for the Cure defunding of Planned Parenthood, and its eventual reversal, started this past February and put the organization in the spotlight for reasons unrelated to its usual marketing prowess.
  • With Election Around The Corner, Charities Must Tread Carefully: Guest authors Janice M. Ryan and Ronald M. Jacobs present an in-depth guide of what 501(c)(3)s can legally do in terms of political advocacy.

Columns

  • Stage One Is Denial: Our editor-in-chief Paul Clolery thinks Nancy Brinker needs to leave the organization, rather than just switching roles.
  • Time, Task And Turf: Frequent NPT contributor Thomas A. McLaughlin shares the three areas that are most likely to shape board member behavior.
Head over to the NPT website to view these articles and, if you have a digital subscription, view the whole issue.