Thursday, December 29, 2011

SCNY-ED Group 2012 Membership Info and Announcement

In 2011 the goal set by the members of the SCNY-ED Group was to become a formalized organization with a minimal membership structure that could support future projects. That goal was achieved. We continue to focus on the publication of our data demonstrating the significant impact of non-profits in our community and are still accepting donations toward the final prep and printing of the document. This is also the time to begin looking forward toward setting and attaining new meaningful goals for the group and getting our committee structure strong and working on those goals.

To do that your support as a member is required. If you joined as a paid member in 2011 at the $25.00 rate you can renew your membership at that same $25.00 rate until February 28,, 2012 in appreciation of your commitment and support.
I look forward to seeing current members and new members at our meetings in 2012.

Deb Fitzgerald, Steering Committee Chairperson


Pro bono attorney work offered from Attorney General's Office: December 31st Deadline to Apply

The Charities Bureau is pleased to announce Charity Corps, an exciting joint initiative of the Attorney General's office and the New York State Bar Association that will assist nonprofits by matching them with volunteer attorneys. Those attorneys will provide advice on corporate law and fiduciary duties; compliance with the tax exemption, governmental filing requirements and fundraising laws; and good practices in setting executive compensation and self-evaluation of nonprofits' programs. Charity Corps will also provide access to training for boards and managers of nonprofits.

Charity Corps' goal is to serve hundreds of needy and worthy New York nonprofits annually. It will begin with a pilot program that will match up to 50 nonprofits with pro bono counsel during the first year.

Nonprofits that have 501(c)(3) tax-exemption and do not have, and cannot afford, legal counsel are welcome to apply to be matched with volunteer attorneys. Applications should be submitted by December 31, 2011.

A full description of Charity Corps' program and applications for charities seeking assistance and attorneys offering to volunteer are posted at

Questions concerning the program should be addressed to

Jason Lilien,
Bureau Chief, Charities Bureau

Monday, December 19, 2011

SCNYED Meeting and Program Minutes: Recap on Foundations' Presentation

12/14/11 – Family Enrichment Network

Chair Deb Fitzgerald called the meeting to order at 8:40am. She welcomed all present and asked for introductions

The Business Meeting was called to order. Deb noted that we have significantly formalized our structure this year through NYCON which affords us 501(c)(3) status. We now have a minimal dues structure which will allow us to pursue more substantial activities. We currently have 19 formal members who paid dues for 2011. If dues were paid in 2011, there will be a modest reduction in dues for 2012. For renewing members the rate will remain reduced to $25.00 and for those formally joining this year the full rate agreed upon by the group is $35.00. Our goal was to keep the dues attainable by all organizations and their Executive Directors. More importantly, membership is vital to demonstrate to potential funders and partners that the non-profits of the Southern Tier are working together as a group.

Deb asked Joe Sellepack to provide an update on our fund raising effort for printing of our “Special Projects” Non-Profit Economic Impact Study which documents the value of non-profits in our area. Joe noted that we had received about $2,500 in pledges towards a goal of $4,000, of which about $1,850 has actually received to date. The money raised will cover the cost of printing an executive summary and copies of the hefty report. We need to raise the rest soon before our data becomes dated. It was also noted that the project summary is on our website.
Deb discussed our programs during the year and that suggestions for program topics as well as participation in the programs. A good response to a forthcoming survey in January is essential in assisting us as we’re working towards providing relevant programs for all.

David Karre introduced our presenters for the day – Judy Peckham, Executive Director of the Klee Foundation, and Diane Brown, Executive Director of the Community Foundation for South Central New York. Their broad topic was the state of philanthropy in the Southern Tier and the forthcoming common application form for many local foundations.

Judy began by noting that while local foundations meet as a group about every 8 weeks, she and Diane were certainly not speaking today for the group as a whole, but rather speaking as individuals because not all foundations are alike!

Trends and Observations: Judy reiterated that there are increasingly scarce dollars, increasing demands for these dollars, and increased scrutiny by the federal government and others in how dollars are spent and their outcomes. All foundations are taking a closer look at agencies and their practices in an effort to ensure maximum outcomes. Frankly, foundations are looking for what they will receive in return for their expenditures – specifically, what is returned to the community! Diane noted that the Community Foundation (CF) “needs assessment” has given the CF an opportunity for a closer look at what their funding priorities should be over the next 18 months. With that in mind, she mentioned that the spring grant cycle for the CF will allocate $100,000 to flood-related activities only. They will be waiving some of the normal requirements in order to help agencies (such as not waiting 2 years to apply for funds) and that they will reimburse retroactively for expenses made by agencies during the flood. After that, the CF will continue to evaluate how funds should be spent among various areas of community concern. CF will also continue, in cooperation with Klee, Hoyt and other foundations, to sponsor the “capacity building” programs with NYCON. Once again, there will be a requirement to attend one of the free training programs in order to apply for the grants. They will provide the first workshop on “capacity building” and a follow-up program on “evaluation and outcomes”. Judy mentioned that Klee has given $300,000 to United Way in an effort to help individuals in the area. It is also important to remember that foundations have a specific spending policy concerning the amount of funds they may spend as well as the areas they support, so it’s important to check websites and contact the foundation before filing an application to determine applicability. For example, Klee is now looking at healthy childhood programs (specifically, childhood obesity) as a topic. They are also looking for strong partnership programs, and she discussed a partnership between BU and WSKG as an example. She also noted Klee will provide support for operating funds to “build capacity or sustainability”.

Partnerships: Both Judy and Diane mentioned they are looking for organizations to form partnerships, especially focusing on “creative partnerships’ whereby an organization’s outlook is expanded though new or uncommon partnerships. Diane noted that the CF will work to help develop these partnerships, particularly as they will further the CF “needs assessment” results. They briefly discussed the “Saving Philanthropy” film, which relates to developing outcomes. Specifically, foundations are concerned that organizations are doing things that are in line with their mission. They both felt it’s important for organizations to look at and understand their business models, which sometimes means that Boards need to make painful decisions about programs and services.

The “Common Application”: They noted that a “common application” for many local foundations will be unveiled in January, 2012. Developing this has been no small task! However, they felt it will simplify the application process, despite the 6-page introduction and instructions. It will officially be known as the “Uniform Grant Application” and should be available on the websites of the Klee and CF early in January. They felt it will require less material and be less complicated. However, it was noted that each foundation will still have specific and perhaps unique requirements so special attention needs to be paid to the details. It is also important to note that it is not a single application to all foundations simultaneously! It is not yet an interactive form. They intend to pilot the program for a year and are seeking feedback on the form for possible changes in 2013 (the form will not change during 2012). Lastly, Diane noted that CF will hold a program on CF guidelines and the new form at 1pm on January 24, 2012 in the Decker Room at BCPL

Q: Will there still be a dollar amount available for “capacity building” grants? A: Mini-grants will be available again through the NYCON program. They may also be able to provide technical assistance grants. Klee is also looking for capacity-building projects.

Q:Is there any prospect of a unified data collection project, such as a repository of all local 990’s? A: A great idea but not sure how to make it happen with limited staffing at foundations.

Deb thanked Judy and Diane for all the information they shared and reminded everyone to fill out the survey in the new year. She noted our next meeting will be in the spring (likely March).

Before concluding David Karre noted that we all need to give a significant thanks to Deb for all her efforts this year in making our formalized structure a reality. (applause for Deb!)

David Karre, Secretary

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guest Viewpoint: Especially in hard times, nonprofits need our help

The Press & Sun-Bulletin featured a recent editorial.

There isn't much that is certain in life, aside from death and taxes, of course. We have all experienced, in any number of ways, the effects of rampant uncertainty and financial hardship. But through all of the turbulence, one thing has remained constant: We need our local nonprofits.

Every day, thousands of people in the Southern Tier rely on its stable of local charity and support groups to eat, sleep, care for their children, or come back from what often initially seems like insurmountable odds. Every time, the good will and caring heart of a volunteer or case worker reinforces the ability of so many to do so much in spite of what may lie ahead.

I may be in Raleigh, N.C., but my heart belongs to the Southern Tier, where the community certainly has faced its share of disaster. This year's flood was far beyond any reasonable comprehension. Down here in Raleigh, a tornado ripped through the area with a devastating blow the likes of which this fairly new North Carolinian had never seen. What shined above all else, though, was the overwhelming support of those in our community. The food banks, the disaster recovery groups, the unsolicited support of an otherwise unknown person or resource — all of these things encompassed the system that allowed us to rebuild.

None of this would have been possible were it not for the nonprofits we have in our respective communities. They are the unsung heroes amidst an often dreary fa├žade of unceasing need and uncertainty. Now is the time that we should return the favor, not just as individuals, but as businesses.

Like all businesses, our success is predicated upon the success of our economy and its people. So it is only fitting that we fervently support our community through the multitude of opportunities for us to donate our time, talent and treasure. We follow the example of so many of our colleagues who do the same.

Large or small, local businesses provide the resources that nonprofits require to help those in need. It is a cycle that not only represents the right thing to do, but breeds an air of consciousness into the lungs of a business's employee base. Leadership comes from experience, and there's no experience quite like giving to others and advancing a good cause.

In that spirit, our organization, like many others, is rolling out an office initiative focused on philanthropy. We will be working as a team on local projects meant to further the causes we hold dear, whether it's volunteering at a soup kitchen or organizing a fundraising contest within our respective walls. No matter what we do, it will be because we aim to make our relatively small contribution as meaningful as possible.

Whether you're a business owner or simply a potential volunteer, join us by recommitting yourself to helping those among us who need it the most. For all kinds of good reasons, now is the time.

Fitzsimmons, born and raised in the Southern Tier, is the chief operating officer of The Sorin Group in Raleigh, N.C.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

1 in 2 Americans are now poor or low income

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years."

•Study: 1 in 5 American children lives in poverty
Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax cut, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that could also trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far, citing poor people who live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.

With nearly 14 million Americans unemployed, a new child welfare study finds one in five children are living in poverty. Nearly one in three live in homes where no parent works full-time year-round. NBC's Chris Jansing reports.
"There's no doubt the recession has thrown a lot of people out of work and incomes have fallen," Rector said. "As we come out of recession, it will be important that these programs promote self-sufficiency rather than dependence and encourage people to look for work."

Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are consuming up to half of a family's income.

States in the South and West had the highest shares of low-income families, including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, which have scaled back or eliminated aid programs for the needy. By raw numbers, such families were most numerous in California and Texas, each with more than 1 million.

The struggling Americans include Zenobia Bechtol, 18, in Austin, Texas, who earns minimum wage as a part-time pizza delivery driver. Bechtol and her 7-month-old baby were recently evicted from their bedbug-infested apartment after her boyfriend, an electrician, lost his job in the sluggish economy.

After an 18-month job search, Bechtol's boyfriend now works as a waiter and the family of three is temporarily living with her mother.

"We're paying my mom $200 a month for rent, and after diapers and formula and gas for work, we barely have enough money to spend," said Bechtol, a high school graduate who wants to go to college. "If it weren't for food stamps and other government money for families who need help, we wouldn't have been able to survive."

About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That's up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.

Read more here.