Category Archives: Finance

Foundations, how aggravating is your grantmaking process? Use this checklist to find out!

[Image description: A from-the-waist-up image of a red plastic robot-looking toy. Update: It may be a Blockhead from Gumby. It has a square head, two googly round eyes that are looking down, a round yellow nose, and a yellow line shaped into a frown. The robot has two arms raised up to the sides of its head. The background is grayish blue.]

As we roll into 2017, there have been lots of articles about how philanthropy must adapt, including my post urging funders to increase payout and fund advocacy efforts, as well as this piece on moving away from “charity” toward “justice.” These conversations are critical and we must keep having them. While we figure that stuff out, though, let’s take care of a few logistical things foundations do that make us nonprofits want to roll up a printed-out copy of our tax filings and beat ourselves unconscious.

So, I asked the NWB Facebook community to name the things funders do that get on people’s nerves. I got over 350 comments. I’ve condensed them into the Funding Logistics Aggravation, Incomprehensibility, and Laughability (FLAIL) Index. Here is a list of things that make us want to punch a wall, scratch our heads in bewilderment, or crack up laughing. Or drink. [Update: The FLAIL Index is now called the FLAIL Scale, and was revised on 1-21-17] Continue reading

A letter to Santa from the nonprofit sector

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[Image description: The image is of a man dressed as Santa, sitting in front of a fireplace with a white mantle. His robe is red with white trimmings, accented with a large black belt with a large golden buckle. He has a row of what may be red poinsettia flowers and green holly leaves lining the trimming of his hat, which is flopped over to the right side of his head. He is looking directly at the camera, his head slightly tilted. He has a stern or wry look. His hands are in white gloves. One hand is on his glasses, as if he were lowering them, the other resting on his belt. On the mantle there are several brown pine cones, white snowflakes, and red ornaments. Off to Santa’s right, in the background, is a tree decorated with red and white ornaments. There are several red stockings with white trimmings hanging from the mantle.]

Dear Santa,

I know you are extremely busy. I mean, you are technically a nonprofit, and this is December after all. My colleagues are wrapped up in licking thousands of envelopes, handwriting tons of thank-you notes, organizing a gazillion events for the community, and consuming leftover holiday party wine and chips. (Stop judging us, Santa. Like your lunch is always so balanced). Since they are occupied with year-end tasks, I asked my colleagues what they wanted from you, and I’m synthesizing their responses, to save you some time. I am writing a letter to you on behalf of all of us in the nonprofit sector.

Santa, this has been a horrible year. First-episode-of-Black-Mirror horrible. Superman-IV:-Quest-for-Peace horrible. And many of us are not exactly looking forward to next year either. It’s OK. All of us are rolling up our Ross-Dress-for-Less sleeves and are determined to fight for a just and inclusive society.

It won’t be easy though. That’s why we need you. You can help us out by granting some of these wishes below. This Christmas, please give us: Continue reading

Bragging about program-to-admin ratios is a destructive practice that needs to die 

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[Image description: A black and white photo of a raccoon standing behind a chain-link fence. The raccoon has one paw raised near its face resting on the fence, and its other paw lower, also resting on the fence. This is a cute but kind of sad-looking raccoon. This image may be evocative of restricted funding in the nonprofit sector]

Hi everyone. Just a quick reminder that my org is hiring a capacity building coach to work with our partner organizations. We are getting lots of amazing candidates, but we are keeping the position open until we find that magical unicorn to join the team. 

Thank you to those of you who supported the Kickstarter project I’m involved with, where I’m helping to write a book. Thanks to you, the project got fully funded within a few days! Sweet! (You can still donate if you missed out, because there are cool prizes).

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for awesome holiday gifts for the nonprofit people in your life, NWB merchandise is available. 

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I know that many of us have sent out our year-end appeal letter, or are in the process of doing so. Some of us are pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into these letters, sometimes literally, with the paper cuts and the occasional weeping over the hundreds or thousands of letters that need to be stuffed. 

You know what makes me weep, though? Y’all who still use language in your letters like “94 cents of every dollar goes directly to programs!!!” Every time I see it or hear about it, it is like getting a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat directly to the noggin. Continue reading

Why the new overtime rules are good for nonprofits and thus for our community

chihuahua-820085_960_720If you work in nonprofit in the US, you have heard that new federal overtime laws/rules are coming. They affect how we categorize the professionals in our sector—“Exempt” or “Non-Exempt”—and how we pay them, whether through set salaries or through hourly wages that include overtime for hours worked over 40. If reading that sentence makes you want to hyperventilate into a paper bag for a few minutes, you’re not alone. Many people are freaking out about these new laws and how to comply with them, because they take effect this coming December!

By the way, since this post may be long and kind of dry, I’m going to insert more pictures of baby animals than normal to motivate you to keep reading. The baby animals have nothing to do with the content of this post.

The Basics

Basically, to be considered Exempt starting in December, an employee must now be paid $47,476, which is double the current level of $23,660. If an employee is paid less than $47,476, they cannot be considered Exempt and must be paid overtime for any extra hours worked.  

Since I am not an expert on this subject, I checked in with colleagues and organizations who are better versed and will be quoting them heavily. I highly recommend you spend some time on this page, Adjusting to New Overtime Rules, by 501 Commons. It has work duties tests, a workbook to help you calculate whether to pay overtime or increase someone’s salary, a free recorded webinar training hosted by a compensation expert, a list of other resources, and FAQs. Continue reading

The myth of double-dipping, and the destructiveness of restricted funding

salsa-840249_960_720I’ve written before about double-dipping being one of the worst accusations you can leverage against a nonprofit. It makes for an effective insult: “Your ED is so dumb, he went on eHarmony hoping to meet a logic model.” “Oh yeah? Well your org is so unethical, it reported that one funder paid for some food for a community gathering, but then also told another funder that they paid for the same food!” (#nonprofitinsults, in case you’re bored and want to start a new trend on Twitter)

I don’t want to keep harping on this subject, but it deserves to be harped on from time to time. Last week, I had a meeting with my team to talk about our finances. Specifically, we are spinning off into our own 501c3, and some of our funders want information on how the money they gave us has been spent before we transition. For the next hour, we dove into it, and I want to capture the gist of the conversation here, mainly because I think it will make an excellent scene when I begin working on “Nonprofit: The Musical” in earnest. Continue reading