Many not-for-profits take the pulse of their membership with regular surveys but fail to conduct them strategically and end up with useless information. Maximize your next survey’s effectiveness by focusing on your objectives during every stage of the process. For example, start by defining what you want to learn so that you don’t ask members for information you can’t use. Design your survey with specific questions and explain to participants how you plan to use the results.
The commerciality doctrine was created to address concerns over not-for-profits competing at an unfair tax advantage with for-profit businesses. Organizations that don’t pass muster could lose their tax-exempt status. Even business activities related to your nonprofit’s exempt purpose could fall prey to the doctrine. Courts consider several factors, including whether you sell to the general public, set prices to maximize profits and accumulate unreasonable reserves. Contact us before launching a revenue-generating business.
Overhead ratios can help potential donors weed out spendthrift not-for-profits. Yet a narrow focus on this one metric tends to unfairly penalize organizations making reasonable current expenditures and strategic investments. To communicate with donors that “impact” (the indirect effects of measurable outcomes) is the best measure of nonprofit effectiveness, add supplemental financial statements and break out administrative items in your annual report. Such enhancements can help you explain how expenditures result in enhanced programs that positively affect lives.
If your not-for-profit prepares internal financial statements for your board on a monthly, quarterly or other basis, you may notice that they deviate in significant ways from year end statements. What’s going on? Most likely, differences are due to cash basis vs. accrual basis accounting. Your auditors likely convert your cash basis financials to accrual basis statements. The statements also may differ because your auditors have proposed adjusting certain entries for reasonable estimates.
Embracing accountability helps your nonprofit demonstrate openness and fulfill its fiduciary responsibility. Accountability starts with complying with applicable laws and rules and committing to using resources to support your mission. There can be no accountability without good governance, and that’s ultimately up to your board. Your board needs to understand the importance of its role and focus on big-picture items, not process-oriented details. Finally, communicate accountability with your annual report and Form 990.
One not-for-profit advocacy group estimates the value of the average volunteer at $24.69 an hour. Whether your entire workforce is unpaid or you rely on a few volunteers to support a paid staff, these assets must be safeguarded. Consider “professionalizing” your program with formal training, set schedules and performance reviews. To keep volunteers engaged, match their skills and interests with tasks. Also, make the work fun by facilitating friendships with other volunteers through mentoring and volunteer-only activities.
EDIT: Correction made to the effective date.
In the past you may have given to various Arizona charitable organizations that allowed for a $1-for-$1 state tax credit on your tax return. These included donations to Qualifying Charitable Organizations, Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organizations, Public Schools, the Arizona Military Family Relief Fund, and Private School Tuition Organizations (STOs). Changes are coming related to the rules of how this works, and there is a very narrow window (8/24/18-8/27/18) if you wanted to take advantage of making the 2018 tax credit donations before the new rules are made effective.
Your not-for-profit has probably spent a lot of time and effort attracting board members who have the knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment to make a difference to your organization. Unfortunately, what begins as a good relationship can sour over time, and you may find yourself in the tough position of having to “fire” a board member.
8 deadly sins
Several behaviors can interfere with your board’s efficacy. Pay particular attention to members who:
More and more not-for-profits are joining forces to better serve their clients and cut costs. But such relationships can come with complicated financial reporting obligations.
Starting with the simplest
For accounting purposes, the simplest relationship between nonprofits may be a collaborative arrangement. These are typically contractual agreements in which two or more organizations are active participants in a joint operating activity — for example, a hospital that’s jointly operated by two nonprofit health care organizations.
When United Way began accepting Bitcoin contributions a few years ago, many not-for-profits started to rethink their policy against accepting digital (also known as virtual and crypto) currency donations. It’s understandable if your organization remains wary of money that’s neither printed nor backed by a central bank or government. But there are potential advantages to accepting this uniquely 21st century form of support.
Brave new benefits
Accepting virtual currencies may allow your nonprofit to receive donations of any size from people worldwide who don’t have easy access to global financial systems.