Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NPR's All Things Considered Features NYCON CEO speaking on nonprofits facing services and fees

NPR story, Amid Red Ink, Tax-Exempts Asked To Add To Coffers, features NYCON CEO Doug Sauer.

State and local governments, eager to close their budget gaps, are increasingly going after charities and other tax-exempt groups. Government officials are proposing new fees on nonprofits to help pay for services. They're also challenging the exemptions these groups get from sales and property taxes.

In Concord, Mass., for example, the Board of Selectmen sent a letter to the town's nonprofits earlier this year. It said that local property taxes were so high they were driving residents away. The board asked the town's private schools, hospitals, charities and churches if they could start paying their fair share.

"I guess we're just hoping that in times where people are economically really stretched, that to the extent that they're able, they can contribute," says board member Virginia McIntyre.

But the initial response was not what the board had hoped. One arts group offered to contribute $1,000 to the town, but most of the nonprofits responded — politely — that they contributed to Concord in many nonmonetary ways.

'A Slippery Slope'

Kathi Anderson is executive director of the Walden Woods Project in Concord. It preserves property including Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau — who, she notes, went to jail rather than pay a tax he opposed.

"The land that is now protected is a wonderful resource, not only for people who live in the community, but for people who visit the community," Anderson says.

She says she feels the town's pain but that her group is hurting financially, too. She says it would be hard-pressed to come up with the $89,000 Concord says the Walden Woods Project would owe if it weren't tax-exempt. Even a "donation" to the town would send the wrong message, Anderson says.

"This is a slippery slope because if indeed a donation is made, then it implies that one supports the notion of having charities essentially pay taxes," Anderson says.

And that would fly in the face of the long-time relationship between government and charity — the idea that nonprofits fill a valuable community role and should be exempt from tax.

But increasingly that relationship is being challenged. Boston wants its universities, hospitals and nonprofits to pay 25 percent of what they'd owe if they weren't tax-exempt. Philadelphia is talking to its universities about similar payments. Kansas and Hawaii considered repealing tax exemptions for nonprofits as part of their budget debates. And Minneapolis has imposed a "streetlight fee" on nonprofits to help pay for electricity and bulbs.

Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits, says these moves couldn't come at a worse time.

"Corporate donations are down significantly. Individual giving is down. Foundation giving is down substantially," even though demand for charitable services is up, he says. Delaney says adding more costs will only hurt taxpayers in the long run because there's high demand for the types of services — such as health care and food pantries — that many nonprofits provide.

"When we can't [provide them], then there's greater needs in the community. And when the needs get so severe, then we're going to find people demanding that government step in. That is going to cost a whole lot more," he says.

Albany's Experience

But Frank Commisso, a council member in Albany, N.Y., says cities like his have little choice. More than half of Albany's property is tax-exempt because the city is home to so many state offices, hospitals and universities. But he says these institutions still rely on city services. Read more and listen to the story here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Foundations Offering Loans to Nonprofits

The Buffalo News reported that a $650,000 check in 2008 from the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York for a new program to assist the frail elderly in Cattaraugus County came with a caveat: Trustees of the foundation wanted the money back, with interest.

A single grant of that size was beyond the capacity of the foundation, so trustees decided instead to make it a loan.

The money allowed Community Care of Western New York to launch a program that will keep more than 200 rural elderly people safely in their homes. Without it, the project probably would have stalled.

"It would not have opened without us, and what is a really promising model for elder care in a rural community would have been lost," said Ann Monroe, foundation president.

Increasingly, foundations in Western New York and across the country are turning to loans, loan guarantees and other measures as a way to aid needy nonprofit organizations without giving away the store.

The John R. Oishei Foundation, the area's largest private foundation, currently has more than $12 million — nearly 4 percent of its $280 million asset base — being used in this fashion. And at least two other local foundations, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and the Joy Family Foundation, have experimented with alternative financing.

Known as "program-related investments," or more popularly "PRIs," the loans and loan guarantees are serving a dual purpose for foundations hammered by stock market losses in 2008.

PRIs, like grants, put money toward projects that might not otherwise get off the ground. Read more here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Gerald Archibald, from The Bonadio Group, offered the following viewpoint:

When you are asked to contribute to this year’s United Way Campaign, please dig deep and be as generous as possible with your pledge. After 35 years as a volunteer and contributor to our United Way, I continue to believe that the United Way Campaign provides the life blood for continuation of critical programs and services to those who are less fortunate in our community.

In last month’s column, (“There’s a lot of room to operate between autonomy and takeover,” April 1), I referenced a question posed to me by a board member who asked whether her non-profit agency should merge with another.

Coincidentally, the week that article ran, I had an opportunity to hear United Way’s President Peter Carpino make the case to me, and other members of an Executive Committee on which I serve, why non-profits need to do business differently.

United Way takes this subject very seriously… so seriously, in fact, that its Board has made a five-year commitment to a “Non-profit Sustainability Initiative.” United Way also has assembled a 12-member consortium with representatives from organizations that are interested in and committed to this issue as well.

The consortium’s membership is impressive and includes the Simon School, RIT’s Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, SUNY Brockport, the Council of Agency Executives, the New York Council of Non-Profits, the Rochester Business Alliance, The Community Foundation, the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, the Greater Rochester Quality Council, the Center for Governmental Research, and Grantmakers Forum of New York.

There’s no question in my mind that United Way is the right organization to assume leadership on this issue and that the time is right for them to do so.

Consider this:

New York State is facing a projected $27.5 billion deficit over the next three years;
Rochester’s United Way has raised $7.5 million less in the past four years, including $3.5 million less last year alone;

Given the impact that last year’s market downturn had on foundations’ endowments, grant making was reduced significantly.

The concept of sustainability is not new to United Way. Over the past 15 years, through its Synergy Fund, United Way has invested nearly $1 million to support increased efficiencies among not-for-profits through organizational re-engineerings ranging from co-locations to mergers. Recent successes include the Ibero-PRYD merger and AIDS Rochester-AIDS Community Health Center merger (now called AIDS Care).

Carpino noted that, given current economic realities, conditions are ripe for non-profits to explore restructuring and other forms of cost-effective collaboration more intentionally and to assess what is the right level of competition (given that too much competition can lead to service duplication).

And, he said, public and private funders no longer have the capacity (or, in some cases, the willingness) to support all the programs they’ve supported in the past. Therefore, non-profits should seek out and take advantage of opportunities to sharpen their focus or modify their priorities in light of changing community priorities. Read more here.

$250,000 Available for Nonprofits


The Community Foundation for South Central New York announced today that it has made available, through a competitive request-for-proposal process, up to $250,000 to be awarded from the Harriet Ford Dickinson Fund during 2010, for qualified nonprofits in Broome County who wish to increase their effectiveness in addressing critical issues that impact the quality of life for individuals, groups or the Broome County community in general.

In issuing this Request for Proposals, the Foundation’s intent is to allow organizations to identify critical issues impacting quality of life, rather than the Foundation; provide agencies the opportunity to build appropriate collaborative relationships; provide a larger sum of money than it can through its regular discretionary grants; and encourage programs and projects that are creative, collaborative and innovative in regards to quality of life concerns facing the Broome County community.

These funds (up to $75,000 per organization) will be made available through a three step process; concept papers are due June 11, 2010, selected agencies will be requested to present to the awards committee in July and August and finalists will be asked to submit full proposals by September 15, 2010.

The Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation established the Harriet Ford Dickenson Fund at the Community Foundation with a $4,000,000 grant in 2000 with the expectation that the fund would support nonprofits in Broome County in perpetuity, and has awarded over $1,015,762 since its inclusion in the Community Foundation endowment.

Interested organizations should contact Robert Jensen, Program Officer or Diane Brown, Executive Director at 772-6773 for further information and to determine if they are eligible.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

June 8th SCNY ED Program Topic is Collaboration: a Step by Step Guide

Presented by Denise Dyer, Regional Youth Development Coordinator, NYS Office of Children & Family Services

Today's complex problems require collaborative solutions and can result in improved outcomes for those that we serve. However, collaboration is not a quick fix. It requires resources and commitment, which is especially challenging at a time when resources are scarce. What are the characteristics of effective collaborations? How can we work collaboratively, avoid common pitfalls, and achieve success?


Date: Tuesday, June 8th
8:30 am- General meeting
9:00am to 10:30pm- Program
Cost: FREE to nonprofit directors
Location: AVRE
174 Court Street
Binghamton, NY 13901

Denise Dyer is Regional Youth Development Coordinator for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services' Office of Youth Development who brings over 30 years of experience in youth services to her position. She is a graduate of Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Administration, and an adjunct professor for LeMoyne College. Prior to teaching at LeMoyne, she taught for a number of years for the State University system at Binghamton University, SUNY Cortland and Oswego State.

Denise is responsible for working with communities and agencies to develop the opportunities, services and supports that allow young people to become healthy, competent adults. She is a skilled facilitator assisting counties and community coalitions in planning efforts to meet the needs of young people, providing services and supports to prevent risky behavior and avoid systems involvement.

Denise provides training and technical assistance, as well as state aid for youth development and delinquency prevention programs, to a number of counties in Central New York. She has conducted workshops and training sessions at the local, state, and national level on a wide range of subjects including leadership, planning, outcomes and youth development.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Reluctant to Ready: A 7-Step Plan to Transform Your Board into Fantastic Fundraisers

DATE Thursday, June 24, 2010
TIME 8:00AM–12:00PM
601 Gates Road, Vestal, NY 13850

Board members are often reluctant to accept their responsibility to financially support and solicit donations for the nonprofits they serve. Working toward a solution is an “inside out” approach, and regardless of the issues, there are effective steps you can take to transform a board whose members evade, resist, or just don’t follow through, into one that’s fully engaged in fundraising.

AUDIENCE: Board Chair, Executive Directors/CEOs, Development Officers. We encourage teams of two or more key volunteers/board and staff to attend this workshop together.

LEVEL: Intermediate through advanced.

DESCRIPTION: This half-day workshop will provide a step-by-step plan to optimize board responsiveness, effectiveness, and productivity in fundraising.

• Reviewing the fundamentals
• Evaluating your board
• The necessary resources
• Securing commitment
• Establishing accountability
• A look inside at leadership

PRESENTED BY: Susan J. Palmer, Founder and President of The Palmer Westport Group
SPONSORS: The Community Foundation for South Central New York and WSKG Public

8:00AM Coffee, juice, muffins
8:30AM Welcome, thank you and introductions
Diane Brown, Executive Director, Community Foundation
Brian Sickora, President and CEO, WSKG

8:40AM Content overview and agenda review
Susan Palmer
• Reviewing the fundamentals
• Evaluating your board
• The necessary resources
• Securing commitment
• Establishing accountability
• A look inside at leadership

8:50AM What are the fundamentals?
Susan Palmer
• Board vs. Management
• The elephant in the room
• It’s a matter of confidence

9:10AM The 7 step plan
Susan Palmer
(We will take a break
midway through the Plan)
1. Have a Plan
2. Get an advocate
3. Board assessment
4. Retreat!!
5. The necessary resources
6. Securing commitment
7. Finding your power

11:30AM Questions, comments, observations
All participants

11:55AM Closing remarks and thank you!
Diane Brown

To register for this program, click here or for info and questions, call or E-mail The Community Foundation for South Central New York at (607) 772-6773 or cfscny@stny.rr.com

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

BU Philanthropy Incubator Awards $20,000

The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported that the Binghamton University Philanthropy Incubator announced this year’s grant recipients. This year the Incubator has awarded over $20,000 to the following local nonprofit agencies:

Handicapped Children’s Association, $5,000; Family Enrichment Network, $5,500; Boys and Girls Club of Binghamton, $1,500; Center for Discovery in Harris, $1,500; Broome County YMCA, $2,500; Broome Council of Churches, $3,000; Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier, $1,000.

Agencies were selected for funding based upon student research and were expected to meet various qualifications for the grant. This semester, students worked to focus on key initiatives centered on the incubator’s mission, strategy, revenue generation and organizational structure.