Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Nonprofit Spark": A Radio Talk Show for New and Emerging Nonprofits

"Nonprofit Spark" is weekly radio talk show through The Voice America hosted by Renee McGivern, a Minnesota-based nonprofit consultant. This show, launched in September, is focused on spurring dialogue on issues of emerging and new organizations. Check out her show live on Thursdays at 8am EST or catch up on past episodes on her show's webpage.

About the Host: Renee McGivern has 30 years of experience working in nonprofits and trade associations. She’s worn the hats of development, communications and executive director and also spent a great deal of her career designing training seminars for the newspaper industry. McGivern’s passion is to facilitate learning, communication and action so life works for people and organizations. “Nonprofit Spark is the first national radio show devoted to new and emerging nonprofits,” says McGivern. “It’s my dream job - to spark learning and action so leaders are effective at making a huge difference in the world.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How Much Does Your Program Really Cost?

From the National Council of Nonprofits' Nonprofit Knowledge Matters October Newsletter:

Your Mission: What Does it Really Cost?

Too often the grant or contract a nonprofit receives to deliver a program or service, whether from a foundation or the government, simply does not cover the full cost of delivering that program or service. This problem is highlighted in the National Council's recent Special Report: Costs, Complexification, and Crisis: Government’s Human Services Contracting "System" Hurts Everyone. The report illustrates how government contracts that do not cover the full cost of services cut into the muscle of the nonprofit providing the services, and ultimately weaken our communities.
In fact, failure to cover the full cost of services and programs was the #1 problem uncovered by the first-ever national survey documenting the serious and widespread problems experienced by nonprofit human service providers under contract with local, state and federal governments. View the findings from the survey conducted by the Urban Insitute.

The "full cost recovery" problem is echoed by the experience of nonprofits receiving funding from private philanthropy. Foundation grants frequently fall short of covering the actual cost to the nonprofit of delivering programs and services covered by the grant. For instance, a survey by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) found that only 20 percent of foundations say that their grants "often or always" include the appropriate overhead to cover the amount of time grantees spend reporting on their grants. Read a national study by GEO.
In order for nonprofits to be sustainable this paradigm has to change.

Whether from the perspective of capacity builders, or nonprofits that are striving to build their own capacity, we should recognize that part of the problem – and a big step towards a solution – lies with nonprofits themselves. Here are three things you can do:
  1. Know how to calculate the full cost of delivering programs and services – not the "budgeted" costs (often a euphemism for anticipated or projected costs) but the actual costs of service delivery.
  2. Advocate for your organization by communicating the actual costs of program delivery to funding sources.
  3. Communicate to funders that shortchanging nonprofits by not paying the full cost of service delivery is a barrier to the sustainability of individual nonprofits.
The bottom line is that without knowing how much to ask for, and without receiving full cost recovery, nonprofits will never be able to build their capacity or provide sustainable services to our communities.

Wondering where to start? The National Council's Capacity Building Hub shares resources to help nonprofits understand and calculate the full cost of delivering their mission, and to help grantmakers understand the importance of full cost recovery.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

See What You Missed at the September 14th Program on Partnerships, Mergers and Acquisitions

If you missed the September 14th discussion, here is the presentation, offered by NYCON CEO Doug Sauer, for your information.

The information gives an overview of partnerships, mergers and acquisitions as solutions and ideas for nonprofits during these challenging times.

E-mail for the link to the presentation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Mapping Tool Fosters Strategic Grantmaking in Education

New York, NY — October 12, 2010. The Foundation Center has launched Philanthropy In/Sight®: Education, an innovative data visualization tool that helps grantmakers maximize their investments in education. The tool is available through the organization's Foundations for Education Excellence web portal, a knowledge hub for funders researching best practices and funding opportunities in the field. Through support from the C.S. Mott and JPMorgan Chase foundations, education funders can register to use the tool free of charge at the project web site.

"Foundations are driving fundamental change in our system of education," said Foundation Center president, Bradford Smith. "Now more than ever, they are looking to be more strategic and to increase the impact of their grantmaking. Philanthropy In/Sight: Education, gives them a virtual GPS for tracking the flow of education funds, whether it's across the country, around the world, or in their own backyards."

Philanthropy In/Sight: Education, a customized version of the Foundation Center's Philanthropy In/Sight® mapping tool, is the only resource of its kind to offer comprehensive data on who is giving and who is getting grants across all areas of education, from pre-K learning to preparation for college and career. More than 1,100 grant subject terms can be chosen to hone in on programmatic areas. In addition, a menu of geo-targeting tools allows grantmakers to map the locations of organizations and determine funding gaps in countries, states, cities, counties, metropolitan areas, and ZIP codes — as well as in school and congressional districts. By combining the Center's data with Google maps, grantmakers can quickly view information on funding relationships and giving trends in engaging visual formats.

According to product manager, Dave Clark, "Philanthropy In/Sight: Education is a powerful tool that can help grantmakers better target their programs. The ability to overlay dynamic grants information with a wide array of demographic, socio-economic, and other data will help shine a light on areas of greatest need." The data — including population, income, housing, and education-focused statistics — are drawn from authoritative sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Education, and the American Human Development Index.

Videos guide funders through real-world scenarios that show how to use Philanthropy In/Sight: Education to best advantage, including how to identify potential funding partners and grantees. "A key benefit of the tool," said Clark, "is its ability to foster collaborations between individuals and like-minded organizations. It's an effective way to connect the dots for a more vivid picture of the funding landscape in education."

About the Foundation Center
Established in 1956 and today supported by close to 550 foundations, the Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Through data, analysis, and training, it connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit the Center's web site each day and are served in its five regional library/learning centers and its network of 450 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and beyond. For more information, please visit or call (212) 620-4230.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

National Study Shows Government's Unfair Business Practices Hurt New York State Charities

Albany, N.Y. – October 6th, 2010 – The Urban Institute will be releasing a ground breaking national study this morning regarding government contracting and payment practices with human service nonprofits. The report, Human Service Nonprofits and Government Collaboration: Findings from the 2010 National Survey of Nonprofit Government Contracts and Grants, provides essential national and New York State data on contracting practices.

The study is based on survey data for 2009. It ranks late government payments to nonprofits in New York State as being the 9th worst in the country. Payments were commonly late 90 days or more despite the fact that New York is the only state in the country with a “Prompt Contracting” law designed to protect nonprofits from late contracts and payments. This finding reinforces data produced by the State Comptroller that shows that 90% of all state payments are late. The study also revealed that the processes of applying for and reporting on state contracts is seen as problematically complex and time consuming by over 70% of the nonprofits.

Other rankings specific to New York State include:

Ranked 11th in the list of worst offenders with respect to
mid-term changes to contracts.

Ranked 20th in having contracts that do not cover the full cost of the services being performed. Related findings include that 47% of the nonprofits report contracts requiring them to share the cost of full service and over 60% reporting limitations on reimbursement for administrative or overhead expenses incurred.

"Our state’s nonprofits have, historically, been resilient when it comes to putting mission and people first, often absorbing the financial loses and risks associated with doing business with government,” states Doug Sauer, Chief Executive Officer of the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON). He further observes, “These are very difficult times for all. Community-based nonprofits are on the front lines of the crisis in human needs that people across the state are facing. Sadly, the inability of our government leaders to responsibly manage their budgets and be fair in their contractual commitments, are now pushing many charities to the financial breaking point. In essence, government appears to be expecting charitable donors, who are also taxpayers, to subsidize its cash flow. ”

The problem has worsened. A recent survey conducted by NYCON shows that the over 80% of nonprofits report that the contracting and payment problems with the State of New York have worsened in 2010 over 2009. To cope with the state´s business practices, over 60% of charities have reduced services or eliminated programs. Most have had to draw on their charitable reserves and/or borrow money.

To help strengthen the partnership between government and nonprofits NYCON, working closely with the Comptroller’s Office and other State agencies, launched an “Ombudsman Program” to help nonprofits navigate the New York State contracting and payments process as well as, over time, improve the efficiency and timeliness of the State’s processing of nonprofit business.

“Not-for-profits are struggling to provide crucial services to New York families,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. "When state agencies fail to approve contracts and make payments on deadline, they make the problem worse. Many not-for-profits already face significant challenges, and when contracts are delayed and payments aren’t made, the situation gets even tougher."

We need to fix this system,” stated Doug Sauer. “We call on all parties, including candidates for office, to commit to working together for responsible solutions.”

Complete study available now at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Report on tax-exempt property in Binghamton clears up misconceptions

The Press & Sun-Bulletin discussed a report that examined the number of properties in Binghamton that are tax exempt. Although the headline may seem to imply some kind of a problem, the article is a fair and balanced perspective. As the article relates:

About a third of the assessed property value in the city is exempt from taxes.

That's according to a recent report compiled by the city's assessor, Scott Snyder.
Total exemptions in 2011 are valued at $625,642,280 or 33.8 percent of a total assessed value of about $1.8 billion in city property, Snyder said.

That leaves a total taxable property value in Binghamton of about $1.2 billion.
Exemptions include churches, hospitals, nonprofits, schools and government buildings. In addition, the city gives property tax breaks for veterans, the disabled and low-income elderly.

Take away the exemptions for veterans, the disabled and low-income seniors, the percentage of total property tax exemptions drops to about 29 percent, Snyder said.
None of that is unique to Binghamton or other upstate cities that serve as county seats.

"The numbers for the City of Binghamton are at or below the other levels I've seen," Snyder said.

Of about 3,600 total property tax exemptions granted, 900 are for low-income elderly and about 1,700 are for veterans.

The city's exemption report is the first of its kind in recent years, said Teri Rennia, a Democrat who has represented the city's 3rd District since January 2006.

What makes it useful is it spells out just how much property is exempt. Over the years, anecdotal accounts have put that amount as high as 50 percent.
Snyder's report dispels any potential exaggerations, Rennia said.

"We've been trying to tell people this information for years. (Property tax exemptions) are not the source of our problems," Rennia said. "I'm glad the numbers are there to back it up." Read more here.