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Taking the Mystery Out of Filing Comments on Proposed Rules

When you hear about “new proposed federal regulations,” you may immediately think: “I need to learn all about these new regulations so our nonprofit doesn’t get into trouble!” But it’s very unlikely that the proposed rules you heard about will become the “law of the land” as proposed. “Proposed” means just that—a draft change has been suggested and the government is asking for comments before finalizing the rules. So, proposed rules are an open invitation to share your real world expertise, which will provide useful guidance to government and most importantly, improve the experience of your nonprofit, and others. This opportunity is what we refer to at the National Council of Nonprofits as an invitation for “everyday advocacy.”


Government Issues Interim Rule and Request for Comments on Unrelated Business Income Taxes

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service have issued a Request for Comments on proposed interim and transition rules (Notice 2018-67) for interpreting one of the two major changes to nonprofit unrelated business income tax (UBIT) included in federal tax law enacted last December. The new Section 512(a)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code changes the way nonprofits calculate UBIT; instead of aggregating all of their profits and losses from unrelated business activities, nonprofits must now "silo" their revenues and expenses for each "separate" "trade or business" and pay UBIT on each. Neither of the quoted terms is defined in the law, causing nonprofits, foundations, accountants, and tax lawyers to demand relief and clarity. The proposed rules released last week provide some clear answers and instructions on how to comply with the law immediately, but many questions remain that must be resolved during the formal rulemaking process.


The One Strategy That Will Grow Online Donations for Your Organization

Google announced that they now process more than two trillion searches a year.  That number even surprised the Google experts when it was announced.  What that number means to your organization is that every day there is someone searching for you.  Are you showing up online when they come looking? 

With the volume of searches still increasing every year, online donations have a major upside and potential for growth. Online donations can be greatly increased by starting with one very traditional strategy, defining and targeting your donor prospects.  Marketing in the digital world is, at its core, the same as traditional direct marketing.  You’re making some sort of offer to someone and asking them to take the next step. When you target those prospects with something they find valuable you will get amazing results. 


How Does Your Nonprofit’s Social Presence Look? It Could Probably Be Better

Social media like Facebook and Twitter are, beyond any shadow of a doubt, two of the most powerful marketing tools in human history. No other platform allows you to reach such a large audience so quickly—and no other platform allows you to ensure that of that audience, the vast majority are interested in what you’re selling them. This is even true if you’re running a nonprofit.


Beware of “Truths” in Fundraising

Image by Drakeblack5 on Pixabay

Counterintuitive is usually defined as something contrary to what one would intuitively expect. For example, marketing pros discovered long ago that the fewer choices we’re presented with, the more likely we are to actually choose one, whether it’s a lot full of new cars or a shelf full of pasta sauces in the supermarket.

Fundraising is often counterintuitive as well. Here I’ll share four instances. In my book, The Busy Volunteer’s Guide to Fundraising, you’ll find a fuller discussion of many others.


Philanthropy and the Destructive Illusion of “Leveling the Playing Field”

Image by StockSnap on Pixabay

A few months ago a program officer and I were talking about the lack of funding that goes to communities-of-color-led nonprofits (only about 10% of philanthropic dollars go to organizations of color). He shook his head in sympathy and frustration, sipping on his coffee. “There has to be a way to level the playing field,” he said. This was probably the third time that quarter I had heard that phrase uttered by a funder. 


GuideStar Pro Now Includes Financial Analysis Tools

Recently, we added a Financial Trends Analysis to GuideStar Pro—at no additional expense to GuideStar Pro subscribers. This resource was developed in partnership with Nonprofit Finance Fund© (NFF) and applies NFF analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. It upgrades the Peer Comparison function from Financial SCAN to a Peer Analysis feature, which allows GuideStar Pro subscribers to compare up to five organizations across several business model indicators.


Full Tilt Boogie (for Fundraising)

“Full tilt boogie!”

When I was a coxswain on my college rowing team, this was the call my coach taught me to use for “full steam ahead.”

A boat that is fully engaged feels like it’s levitating over the water. It’s exhilarating. But it doesn’t happen without the total coordination of every rower in that boat. To reach the point of “full tilt boogie” I had to gradually build our pace, ensuring that the rowers were in sync, blades hitting the water at the same time, all pulling with the same degree of intensity. Only when it was time did the call go out, and then the rowers gave their all.

As a fundraiser, you’re at the helm for relationship building and sustainability. So think of the year-end fundraising push as your “full tilt boogie”:


Four Questions Mission-Driven Communicators Need to Ask

Good communicators know how to craft a message that resonates with a target audience. It sounds simple on the surface, but truly effective communicators need to do many things before they can make an impact. They need to make sure their messaging is clear and concise. They need to understand what audience they are really trying to reach, and then listen to that group in order to understand its needs. And beyond simply creating a message, they need to determine the most effective ways to make sure that message reaches their targeted audience.


7 Best Practices: Make the Perfect Online Ask to Your Donors

One of your duties as a nonprofit is to raise money from your community of donors so that you have the funds necessary to complete your projects for your cause.


How to Unlock the Potential of Google Ad Grants for Your Nonprofit—Webinar Follow-up

Thanks to the ~1,000 of you who joined us on August 8, 2018, for More than Just Clicks ... How Google Ad Grants Can Support Your Mission—led by Michelle Hurtado from Google Ad Grants, Gabe Cohen from GuideStar, and Sean Kerr from Cause Inspired Media. Here is the recording of the webinar filmed on August 8, 2018, to watch at your convenience.


The Latest FASB Accounting Standards: “How Do I Characterize Thee? Let Me Count the Ways: Fish or Fowl; Reciprocal or Nonreciprocal; Conditional or Unconditional?”

There have been a lot of changes in the accounting practices for nonprofits over the past couple of years. It’s not really surprising, because it has been 25 years since the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has made major updates to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) for nonprofits. The recent changes began with Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606), which modified the timing and methods nonprofits use to recognize revenues generated through contracts. ASU 2016-14, Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities, which goes into effect this year (“for annual financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2017”), revises several accounting practices. It changes the classification of net assets from unrestricted, temporarily restricted, or permanently restricted to net assets without donor restrictions and net assets with donor restrictions; increases disclosure requirements, including those related to asset liquidity; and requires that expenses be presented by function.


Five Tips for Improving Meeting Quality, Onsite and Virtual

Five people come into a room and take their seats around a table. Three people call in to participate by phone through a speaker located in the center of the table. And I’m participating on a video screen located at the end of the table. It’s just another day for me in your average committee meeting.


Do Nonprofit Organizations and Social Enterprises Deliver Results?

How can donors and impact investors learn whether nonprofit organizations and social enterprises are actually delivering results? In the second edition of Money Well Spent, we document some important developments over the past decade since the book was first published. 


Want to Rock Your Year-End Fundraising? Here's How

As a nonprofit, it can be hard to focus on your year-end goals when it’s still the middle of the year. It can be even harder to decide what you need to do to accomplish year-end goals when you’re still trying to meet Q2 or Q3 goals. But the real benefit of year-end planning comes from the ability to transition your current efforts into results for the rest of the year. When you plan correctly for end of year, you’ll build powerful momentum that helps you get more donors and a larger audience.


Borealis Philanthropy Launches Fund to Advance Racial Equity in Philanthropy

We are excited to announce the launch of the Racial Equity in Philanthropy (REP) Fund, a collaborative funding effort based at Borealis Philanthropy that currently includes the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Our first round of grants totaling $14 million over three years will support 19 philanthropy-serving organizations committed to advancing racial equity within the sector and beyond.


Organizational Sustainability, Capacity, and Growth: Not Just for the Big Guys!

I recently had the opportunity to meet with a small, grassroots nonprofit organization that was justifiably proud of its growth. It had proven organizational sustainability by reaching the 10-year milestone and had proven capacity by quintupling its annual budget since its inception. And, the organization had a current grants strategy that was for a larger amount than the entire annual budget during its first years. However, it still operates on an annual budget of less than $500,000—not one of the “big guys,” but still quite successful.

This got me thinking about the fine line between success and failure for small nonprofit organizations.


The Next Big Things in Fundraising

What are the “next big things” in fundraising? With charitable giving expected to fall, demand for services rising, and “donor inequality” increasing, many nonprofits are looking for something new.


Why Internal Controls Should Matter to Your Nonprofit

Almost every month news articles are published about an employee at a nonprofit that was caught in fraudulent behavior.  Unfortunately, the “do good” missions of nonprofits and their staffs do not necessarily make them less susceptible to incidences of internal fraud. According to the 2012 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the median loss related to fraud for a nonprofit is $100,000 per occurrence. When it happens, it not only depletes the organization of precious financial resources but also damages the nonprofit’s reputation among its donor community.


Eliminate Donor Drop-Off with These 6 Tips

It takes a lot of work for nonprofits to get donors to their fundraising pages—maintaining a strong social presence, running consistent email campaigns, running ads—all in the hopes of getting a donation. While these practices may be successful in getting page visits, they don’t guarantee donation completion. To get specific, studies put the average donor “drop-off” or “abandonment” rate for online donations at somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent; in other words, more than half of the donors who start the donation process won’t finish it. All that effort and money spent on getting a potential donor to your site could fail at the very end. Here are six tried and true ways increase donor completion.


Overcome Nonprofit Board Fundraising Resistance through Storytelling, Part 2

In Part 1 of this two-part series we discussed your board members’ role in fundraising, and how to help them embrace it more fully. It begins with taking away their fears and showing them how to reframe the task from “yucky chore” to “gift of a compelling tale.”

The next step is figuring out the types of tales your board members (and you!) can tell and/or elicit from the prospects they approach for gifts.


Overcome Nonprofit Board Fundraising Resistance through Storytelling, Part 1

Is your board resisting fundraising? Are you having a difficult time motivating them to be a part of this essential activity at your organization?

One way to help your board discover the joy of fundraising is to show them it’s really about telling and hearing stories, not asking!


Why Is Overhead Expected in the For-Profit Sector, but a Punishable Offense for Nonprofits?

How the perception of overhead is hurting the causes we love

Somewhere along the way, our society decided to think differently about overhead in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. This decision did not consider the consequences and how it can negatively affect the organizations that could change the world. Why is it that we consider helping people to be worth less compensation, and that a career that helps no one should be worth over double the salary? How can nonprofits scale, and therefore expand their causes, when they are expected to forego investment? Wouldn’t we prefer that a cure for cancer be found, or every person on Earth have clean water, no matter how much the organization spends on administration?


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