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Health Care Law Revelations


I sure hope this works


Hitting a (Metaphorical) Home Run


Telling Stories, Part Two


The Power of Stories


Top-Rated Nonprofits That Help People Get Jobs

Adapted from GreatNonprofits

How I Broke Through My #1 Problem with My Board

I wish you could have been there.

2009 Form 990: Significant Changes

Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, is the IRS's primary tool for gathering information about tax-exempt organizations, for educating organizations about tax law requirements, and for promoting compliance with tax law. The 2009 Form 990, schedules, and instructions have been revised to modify and clarify certain reporting requirements. The table below summarizes significant changes to the Form 990, schedules, and instructions for 2009.

Text Messaging: A Tool for Immediate Engagement

Excerpts from 2010 Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmarks


After a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, media, government officials, and users of social networking sites urged others to make charitable gifts to relief organizations. But there was something new about these pleas to give. For the first time in the United States, text messaging ranked alongside Web sites and telephone numbers as a primary giving medium. After the disaster struck, the American Red Cross worked with mGive to set up a text donation program that resulted in more than one million Americans donating over $26 million within nine days of the disaster through $10 text donations. In fact, the Red Cross's mobile fundraising campaign for Haiti emergency response efforts is the largest grossing to date.

The Haiti earthquake marked a turning point in mobile giving. It showed that text messaging can be a far-reaching tool for immediate engagement. Nearly 90 percent of Americans own mobile phones, and text messaging has become an all but ubiquitous part of American life. Because mobile phones are the one device that most people keep handy at all times, text messaging offers nonprofit organizations a powerful technology for fundraising, recruitment, and engagement.

American nonprofits are beginning to utilize text messaging (also known as SMS, which stands for "short messaging service") more than any other mobile phone technology because of its versatility and market penetration. In addition to its fundraising potential, text messaging can be used to communicate breaking news and information, prompt supporters to call lawmakers, or deliver information about the positions of a candidate or corporation. ...

Text messaging is especially well-suited for certain types of advocacy engagement, such as call-in alerts. At the same time, text messaging has substantial limitations. To start, the 160-character limit of a text message leaves little space to make a case for giving or taking action. Furthermore, in most cases, American mobile carriers charge both the sender and recipient for each text message. In terms of fundraising, it wasn't until late 2007 that organizations could solicit donations from subscribers in the U.S., and even now supporters can only donate in amounts of $5 and $10.

In its current form, text messaging is most effective as part of a multi-channel communications strategy. For the foreseeable future, e-mail, Web, and direct mail are likely to continue to be the primary means by which organizations communicate with supporters, raise money, and generate action. However, text messaging can reinforce messages from other channels, provide an immediate engagement opportunity in urgent situations, and serve as a key part of a broader communications strategy.

The 2010 Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmarks report is the first of its kind. ... The aim of this study is two-fold: 1) To provide benchmarks and metrics by which nonprofit organizations can measure their success with text messaging; and 2) to illustrate the various ways in which organizations are using text messaging. ...

Key Findings

  • Among the organizations that participated in this study, over 80 percent of text subscribers were recruited via an online program. However, some organizations—especially those with a strong presence at events (notably concerts) or with a television advertising budget—can generate a sizeable number of recruits through these "offline" channels.
  • Text messaging lists grew at an annual rate of 49.5 percent. This rate is quite high, in large part because many partner organizations are building their text lists by drawing from existing supporters.
  • The annual churn rate for text lists was 30.7 percent. The benchmark text message unsubscribe rate was 0.69 percent. Unsubscribe rates varied somewhat by messaging type, with fundraising solicitations seeing the highest unsubscribe rate of 0.92 percent.
  • The response rate for call-in advocacy text messages (text messages urging a supporter to make a call to a decision maker on behalf of the organization) was 4.7 percent—nearly six times the 2009 benchmark response rate of 0.82 for call-in advocacy e-mails. This rate is impressive, and indicative of the power of text messaging to generate an immediate response.

Read the complete report

Michael Amoruso and Jessica Bosanko, M+R Strategic Services, with Katrin Verclas,
© 2010, M+R Strategic Services and Excerpted from 2010 Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmarks; excerpted with permission.

M+R Strategic Services provides highly tailored campaign strategy and services to leading nonprofits working on behalf of the public interest. connects people, organizations, and resources using mobile technology for social change.

The Long-Term Challenge in Haiti for Nonprofits

Reprinted from GreatNonprofits

The global response to [January's] devastating earthquake in Haiti was unprecedented in a number of ways, including the critical roles played by technologies like mobile phones and social media.

[According to MSNBC,] in the first 10 days following the disaster, Americans used their cell phones to donate over $30 million, which represented roughly 14 percent of all U.S. donations toward relief in the island nation during that period.

Meanwhile, since the earthquake destroyed local infrastructure including traditional communication media, social media like Twitter and Facebook quickly emerged as the primary channels for information flowing into and out of the country.

To their credit, many aid organizations have been quick to recognize the importance of these new tools, which clearly have the potential to transform the way societies can recover from the effects of natural disasters in the future.

“It used to be that information-sharing in disasters was largely looked at as a one-way information transfer from relief groups to affected communities,” Adele Waugaman of the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership told Cristina Romero of the European Journalism Centre. “Increasingly, through, technologies that allow for crowd-sourced information, affected communities themselves are becoming a critical source of information in disaster response.”

In addition to the significant roles played by cell phones and social media, a third tool also largely based in technology is now emerging for addressing the longer-term issue of how to help Haiti rebuild itself after the earthquake.

This is the critical opportunity to evaluate which nonprofits are most effective in managing the challenges on the ground as the Haiti effort emerges from the first-stage disaster relief phase to the much more challenging task that lies ahead—how to help the poorest country in the hemisphere recover and rebuild itself so that it might better survive natural disasters in the future.

This is what GreatNonprofits is all about, of course, providing the platform for donors, staffers, volunteers, and clients to rate the effectiveness of the various groups actively involved in the earthquake recovery effort.

As we learned from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the earliest stages of getting emergency help to victims soon becomes overshadowed by the long-term effort to meet the essential needs of those trying to rebuild their shattered lives.

In areas of great poverty, such as Haiti (but also along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in New Orleans), this work is complex, involving the construction not only on schools, clinics, and highways, but of implementing new strategies for combating the causes of the endemic poverty that condemns so many victims to homelessness, disease, and hunger following the disaster itself.

The opportunity for Haitians and the aid organizations helping them, therefore, is no less than to transform the country into a new society that is better able to resist the devastation of future disasters, via projects such as stronger building codes, better sanitation systems, improved communication infrastructure, and a much deeper commitment to universal education and economic development.

Much of this will involve nonprofits. Many of them, in turn, will be smaller and less well-known than the more prominent organizations that led the first stage of disaster relief, while the eyes of the world were still firmly on the drama unfolding in and around Port-au-Prince.

One of the core goals of GreatNonprofits is to provide the platform for these less-glamorous groups to gain the visibility they need to continue to attract the resources necessary for what will inevitably prove to be a very long, complicated, and expensive period of recovery in Haiti.

Toward that end, we have only just begun. Please visit our Haiti Disaster Action Center to help us develop this new effort into the kind of vital resource that will be so badly needed in the months and years to come.

David Weir
© 2010, GreatNonprofits. Reprinted with permission.

David Weir is vice president of communications for GreatNonprofits. GreatNonprofits is a Web site where people who have firsthand knowledge of a nonprofit—board members, volunteers, donors, recipients of services—can tell others about their experiences with the organization. 

IRS Added 155 Employees in 2009 to Oversee Nonprofit Groups

Reprinted from the Chronicle of Philanthropy Web site

Where Do We Go? A New Career Narrative

Reprinted from Opportunity Knocks

Over the past decade, nonprofits have increased their interest in developing leadership as well as attracting and retaining a skilled work force. One motivator has been alarm that the aging baby boom generation will retire from the workplace during the next decades, creating a labor force gap particularly in leadership. But things have changed during the past two years. The nonprofit sector has been hard hit by the recession with organizations cutting back. At the same time, older employees are deferring retirement, both for financial reasons and in order to continue to contribute. Now the concern is focused on whether there is room in organizations for younger generations eager to make a contribution to the public good.

This dilemma highlights a more general problem. Boomers in nonprofits as in other sectors assumed that they would have a 35-year work trajectory. But the reality is the work trajectory for us and the generations that follow is closer to 50+ years.

The good news is the Baby Boom generation is living longer and healthier, their minds are active, and they have a lot of experience to share. But the bad news is few have actual pension plans, and many will not be able to financially sustain themselves if they leave work at age 60 or 65. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the 55+ age group will be the fastest-growing generation in the workforce over the next decade.

Long-term leaders in the nonprofit sector receive little help in how to rethink their work as they get older. This can create a situation where they stay in their current positions because they cannot see other options. Now is the time to consider how the sector can offer long-term employees options that allow them to continue to contribute their experience, skills, and passion in their own or other organizations without staying in their current jobs. There has been emerging work in this area – such as Jan Masaoka's "The Departing" and Mark Leach's "Table for Two." But more research needs to be done to offer real options to Baby Boomers who are in the sector as they age.

One place to start is to create a new career narrative. The myth that the Baby Boom generation will be retiring at 65 should be replaced with a new story about the possibilities that lie ahead. What are the ways Boomers can contribute? When can we afford to take less demanding (and not as high-paying) jobs? What kind of retraining and continuing education will we need to stay current in our fields?

Here are some ways we might start.

  • Reshape the ladder.
    We tend to think of a career as an upward trajectory where people climb the ladder to their top position and then leave the organization and workforce. A new career ladder might be more like a bell-shaped curve, where earning and positional power peaks and then diminishes again, creating a life in the workplace after achieving the top rung.
  • Think about lattices.
    Nonprofits are for the most part more like small businesses than corporations. That means movement within an organization is limited by size and resources. A career lattice is a way to think about moving across organizations and sectors. Someone might be a full-time nonprofit employee, a part-timer, a consultant, or they might move into government or a for-profit venture.
  • Get lean, mean, and multigenerational.
    Nonprofits can take advantage of tough economic times by restructuring operations in ways that intentionally attract, retain, and integrate a multigenerational workforce. Where do fresh views about the future and deep experience produce the best results? How can we build these cross-generational spaces into our work, and what will be the impact on how we run our organizations?

A new career narrative means we have to think differently about the future. Instead of a linear path, it will be more like a journey where the unexpected can happen and directors are change. And it is just beginning.

Frances Kunreuther
© 2010, Frances Kunreuther. Reprinted from Opportunity Knocks; reprinted with permission.

Frances Kunreuther directs the Building Movement Project, which works to strengthen U.S. nonprofits as sites of democratic practice and advance ways the nonprofit sector can build movement for progressive social change. She is co-author of From the Ground Up: Grassroots Organizations Making Social Change and Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership. Frances is also a senior fellow at the Research Center for Leadership and Action at NYU and spent five years at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University.