Thursday, May 28, 2009

New York Council of Nonprofits Announces New Publication

Standards for Common Sense: A Practical Guide to Basic Accountability Standards for New York Nonprofits, published by NYCON, was supported by Council Services Plus and the Dyson Foundation. This booklet, available to download for free here, is a practical guide for the average nonprofit seeking a reasonable understanding of what accountability standards are, who is promoting them, what related state laws say, and how to think about the choices presented. NYCON has selected eight of the most basic issues involving governance structure and practice, i.e. board size, board compensation, conflict of interest policies, board member independence, term limits, frequency of meetings, audit requirements and the creation of audit committees. The booklet outlines each issue, compares and discusses the standards set by laws or regulations and five different standards setting bodies - the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, the Standards for Excellence Institute, the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

In this 2nd Edition, NYCON has also added a section on Standards of Financial Accountability. This section explores guidelines for percentage of expenditures on program and fundraising activities along with the level of net assets relative to annual spending. Download your copy now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How to Give Like the Rich

The Wall Street Journal featured an article that you don't have to be a Rockefeller to give like one. Even philanthropists of relatively modest means can direct their giving for years after they pass away through "donor advised funds" -- charitable-giving accounts set up with community foundations or some investment firms.

With as little as, say, $5,000, you can set up a fund to help needy children or other causes you select. You get an immediate tax break and, because you're donating through an existing entity, your money won't get eaten up by administrative costs (though you will pay a small annual administrative fee).

"It really kind of multiplies the effect of the charitable dollar," because investment gains can accumulate before the money is distributed, says Ani Hurwitz of the New York Community Trust, a foundation in New York.

The mechanics are fairly easy: You donate to a local community foundation or a charitable fund set up by an investment firm such as Fidelity Investments, Vanguard Group or Charles Schwab.

They will invest the money and make grants supporting the causes of your choice. You make recommendations on how the money should be donated, but they make the final decision.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

N.Y. jobs continue to decline, but unemployment rate improves in April

Private-sector employers continued to cut jobs across the Empire State, but the unemployment rate improved slightly from March to April, according to the latest monthly report issued today by the New York State Department of Labor.

The state's seasonally adjusted private-sector job count decreased over the month by 15,600, or 0.2 percent, to 7,125,200 in April 2009. Since the state's private-sector job count peaked in August 2008, New York has lost 189,000 private-sector positions, erasing almost half of the 400,000 jobs added during the state's last economic expansion from 2003 to 2008.
The unemployment rate improved slightly from 7.8 percent in March to 7.7 in April. That compares to 5 percent in April 2008.

The job picture was similar in Central New York's main cities in April, but with unemployment rates improving by larger margins compared to the March numbers.

In the Binghamton region, the number of private-sector jobs decreased by 2,500 over the last year. The area's unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in April, compared with 8.6 percent in March and 4.8 percent a year ago.

The nation's unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in April, up from 8.5 percent in March and 5 percent a year ago.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Local nonprofits benefit from BU donations

News Channel 10 reported on Binghamton University's Philanthropy Incubator. On Tuesday, the group donated around $12,000 to local nonprofit groups during a ceremony at the school's Downtown Center. The goal was to give grants for capital equipment that normally wouldn't find funding in tough economic times, such as flooring, software or fans.

The program is part of BU's master's program in social work and public administration and the students are the ones who actually approved the type and amount of the proposals.

"If they're going to have careers in public service or non-profit organizations, they need to know how to both apply for grants and how to give them out. And so this project gives them information about both of those things," said David Campbell, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration.This year's recipients included Catholic Charities' Portfolio Cafe, Racker Centers and the Huntington Family Center.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Made in Greater Binghamton: Sheltered Workshop

NewsChannel 34's Steve Craig visits a factory where the workforce of more than 300 is busy, despite the recession.

Since it's founding in 1942, the Sheltered Workshop for the disabled has never been about making profits for shareholders. This nonprofit exists to provide meaningful work, to people with a wide range of disabilities, which translates into an equally wide range of products. Some workers build electrical assemblies sold at home improvement stores. Others package colored paper and books that end up on shelves at discount outlets.

"We're a subcontract manufacturer, and we just want to be a good subcontractor. A low-cost alternative for anybody that needs work done, and we'll provide quality work, we'll do it on time, and we'll do it at a good cost."

The operations that add the most value to finished products, involve wire. Adding connectors and terminals, and cutting it to size, and bundling it into complicated cables and harnesses.

"If you ride subway cars in New York City or Boston or New Jersey or Washington or California our wire will be in there. Electrical wire prepared for installation is in those cars. Anywhere from 12 miles in a New York City car, to 20 miles in some of those New jersey cars." Electrical assemblies built here also wind up in military and civilian airplanes. Snowmobiles, blood analyzers, automated pharmacy dispensers, and EZ pass toll booths.

CEO Ron Charsky says most of those industries are weathering the recession, or even in the case of mass transit cars, growing, because of federal stimulus money." So the diversity's saving us right now because we're not in any one big time and I think that's the challenge. And it's great to work with the people by the way, so that's why we're all here is we're very proud of the people." The labor of the Sheltered Workshop's disabled employees creates an estimated 3 million dollars of product value, every year.