News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.
After attending the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s Nonprofit Day 2011, I found out that, yes nonprofits can lobby. According to the IRS, 501(c)(3) corporations are allowed to lobby as long as they follow their rules and fill out the proper forms. The IRS defines lobbying as attempting to influence legislation by contacting, or encouraging the public to contact, members of a legislative body for purposes of supporting/opposing/proposing legislation. The major rule is that nonprofits cannot spend a “substantial amount” of their budget on lobbying. For a clearer explanation of what the IRS considers to be a “substantial amount,” check out Measuring Lobbying Activity: Expenditure Test. Charity Lawyers Blog post titled, Lobbying-Yes You Can! clarifies in layman’s, terms what is and is not lobbying, as well as explaining the 501(h) election.
According to the IRS, qualifying organizations may file a special election under 501(h) of the Code, or Election/Revocation of Election by an Eligible Section 501(c)(3) Organization To Make Expenditures To Influence Legislation (501(H) Election), to allow them to spend up to a specified dollar amount for lobbying without fear of adverse tax consequence from such activities. The IRS and Michigan Nonprofit Association advise nonprofits to file the 501(h) election if they are planning on doing any lobbying, as well as tracking all expenditures. ‘Direct’ and ‘Grassroots’ lobbying must be tracked separately as they have separate expenditure limits.
IRS Resources on Lobbying and expenditure limits:
IRS Definition of Direct & Grassroots Lobbying
IRS Schedule C Political Campaign and Lobbying Activities
IRS General Instructions for Filing Schedule C for Lobbying Activity
Excessive lobbying activities over a four-year period may cause a nonprofit to lose its tax-exempt status, making all of its income for that period subject to tax.
For questions on how to use communication channels such as your website, email, and social media channels for lobbying, Alliance for Justice is offering a free downloadable copy of Influencing Public Policy In The Digital Age: The Law of Online Lobbying and Election-related Activities. The guide is intended to inform 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) organizations on how to stay within the law and encourage participation in the nation’s democratic process using technology.
Consult your attorney and the IRS Charities/Nonprofits webpage for more information on how nonprofits can lobby for their cause. Other helpful resources are the IRS eNews: Exempt Organization Update and Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest website. ONEplace will be hosting a webinar November 15 titled Lobbying Rules for Nonprofits presented by Alliance for Justice. Register online soon as we anticipate seats will go fast!
Please share your thoughts about nonprofit lobbying by commenting on my blog!
Lobbying-Yes You Can!
Do you cringe at the idea of facing a blank page? Does the task of blogging and writing newsletter articles make you nauseous? You are not alone; there is help available to you. Here are some useful resources you can access with helpful advice from those working in the nonprofit communication field.
Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog is written specifically for nonprofit professionals and offers a wealth of knowledge on different topics pertaining to communication and fundraising.
Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog focuses mainly on writing appeal letters, websites, and social media content. Kivi also offers webinars and podcasts.
6 Tips for Writing Nonprofit Marketing Copy That Works written by Nancy E. Schwartz constructs the foundation for all nonprofit writing.
(all can be found at Kalamazoo Public Library)
Writing for a Good Cause by Joseph Barbato and Danielle S. Furlich
The Complete Guide to Writing Successful Fundraising Letters by Charlotte Rains Dixon
Storytelling for Grant Seekers by Cheryl A. Clarke
How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters by Mal Warwick
Writing for a nonprofit organization goes beyond your basic introduction, body, and conclusion. We as nonprofit professionals are challenged to create interest, meaning, and sometimes action surrounding our organizations. What inspires your writing? Do you have some words of wisdom to share that help you conquer the blank page?
Writing for a Good Cause
The big buzz in the social media world right now is Google+. But what is it and why should nonprofits care? Google+ is a new social media venture created by Google to, “bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software” according to Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President, Engineering at Google. It offers many of the same communication features social media users of Facebook and Twitter are familiar with such as messaging, pictures, and games, along with some valuable extras.
The big difference between Google+ and other established social media sites is Google+ organizes contacts into different “circles” or groups. This allows the user to communicate specifically with targeted groups. For example, a user can send out a targeted post to their planned giving circle, and a different post to their professional circle. Other features include Instant Upload, Hangouts, Sparks, and Huddle.
To learn more about Google+, visit:
Keep in mind that Google+ has not been rolled out to the general public, it is by invitation only.
What is your opinion of Google+? Are you one of the lucky few to receive the Google+ golden ticket? Please share your comments by posting to this blog.
ONEplace is excited to announce our Nonprofit Employment Opportunities webpage. The webpage posts position openings at nonprofit organizations in Kalamazoo County, assisting both job seekers and employers make easy, timely connections. Postings are restricted to 501c3 tax-exempt organizations located in Kalamazoo County.
We receive a wide range of nonprofit job opportunities ranging from executive to staff to seasonal internships, across a wide range of sub-sectors. Since its recent launch, the webpage continues to gain both posts and views. Positions are posted on the bulletin board in ONEplace as well as on the web and in our bi-weekly eNews.
The nonprofit sector is a powerful economic development force that continues to add jobs – up 2.8% during the recession while the for-profit sector has reduced employment over 12.8%. The sector employs over 10% of all workers in the state and is a continuing to grow to meet increasing demands for services. We know of several people who found their position through ONEplace postings.
We invited you—job seekers and nonprofit employers--to take advantage of this new community resource. If you have a job search success story related to our webpage, please share it with us.
Nonprofit Employment Opportunities
In an interesting article in the MNA Links entitled, “Pitch Your Story by Phone,” the writers, Community Media Workshop, suggests nonprofits “pitch” or verbally tell the stories they want to see published by phoning reporters and editors. Thus, bypassing the old system of submitting a press release and crossing your fingers that it will catch someone’s attention.
The article points out that with all the media noise, “phone calls humanize and personalize your stories.” The article lists some helpful tips to make the process easier:
- Call at the right time
- Be Prepared
- Make calls in front of a computer
- Be persistent but don’t be a pest
- Offer to do more to make their job easier
- Be pleasant and upbeat, not frantic, moralistic, or nagging
To read the complete article, click on the link above or drop by ONEplace and pick up a copy of MNA Links at no charge. If you are already an MNA member, you can read the latest issue along with archived issues at the MNA Links webpage.
In addition, the Community Media Works website has an informative video on, “People to Pitch.”
People To Pitch: Burt Constable, Daily Herald from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo.
Has this tactic worked for you? If you’ve had success with phone “pitches,” how does it compare with more traditional electronic submission by website or email? If you have another method of getting your stories heard, please share your success with others and leave a comment.
Pitch Your Story by Phone
Have you created a communication plan for the coming year? If not, now is a good time. According to a report done by the Nonprofit Marketing Guide on 2011 Nonprofit Communication Trends, only 34% of nonprofits have a written and board approved 2011 communication plan in place. Creating a communication plan opens up opportunities and creates synergies between your organizational marketing, fundraising, and promotional efforts. Creating a clear purpose and direction for communicating with stakeholders will allow your organization to speak with one voice and strengthen your image to the public and to your constituents.
Tackling a communication plan is a process similar to strategic planning, it is done in phases. Here are four online resources specifically designed to walk nonprofits through the communication planning process.
Books written about communication plans are rich resources offering more details and breadth on the subject. Recommended books include:
If your nonprofit doesn’t have internal skill to write a plan, hiring a consultant is an option. The ONEplace Consultant & Trainer Directory includes consultants who specialize in communication, marketing, and branding.
If you have experience writing your own communication plan, or working with a consultant, please share your experience along with any helpful tips and/or advice.
Consultants and Trainers Directory
Do you solicit donations using an e-letter, email, or have a “Donate Now” button on your website or social media page? According to the IRS website, your organization is required to register with most state agencies before soliciting the state’s residents for contributions. Not all states require a solicitation license. However, those that do can often request additional information such as financial reports and other documents pertaining to fundraising activities.
Because online fundraising is rather new, individual state regulations concerning online fundraising are in a perpetual state of flux. The most up-to-date state regulations are available at the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) website. The NASCO has attempted to make the filing process easier by creating the Unified Registration Statement. The Unified Registration Statement (URS) is an alternative to filing all of the respective registration forms produced by each of the cooperating states. You can obtain a list of cooperating states and their requirements for filing by visiting The Unified Registration Statement website. The website walks you through the process of filling out the URS, lists each individual state’s requirements including where to send the registration packet for each state.
The article, New 990 Makes Nonprofit Fundraising Registration Unavoidable by Joanne Fritz has some good advice and helpful tips on how to start the process of registering.
The process of registering with different states can be time consuming, even with the URS. Some organizations choose to contract with third parties to take care of the filing. As always, if you have access to a nonprofit attorney, consult them before undertaking any on-line fundraising campaign. To find out more about on-line fundraising, visit the GuideStar article On-Line Fundraising: Some Do’s and Don’ts.
On-Line Fundraising: Some Do’s and Don’ts
Social networking questions and frustrations come into ONEplace often. “Should we be on Facebook?” or “Is social media really worth all the time and effort?” are a couple of the questions we hear. An April, 2010 report by NTen, Common Knowledge, and the Port titled The 2010 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report offers some insight.
The report includes benchmarks for nonprofits to learn how others in the sector are using commercial social network tools such as Facebook or Twitter, or house social networks, and the value they attach to each. Some of the percentages may surprise you.
- 90% Answered yes to having a commercial social network
- 92% Said the purpose of their commercial social network community is marketing
- 60% Have not used commercial social networks to fundraise
Facebook and Twitter are the preferred social network sites, each witnessing large growth in users and community sizes (Facebook 16%, Twitter 38%). Linked In and You Tube have remained steady. My Space is declining in users and community sizes. (45%)
- 40% Received donations from Facebook
- 78% Of these organizations raised $1,000 or less in the last 12 months
- Only 3.5% of the 40% fell into the successful fundraiser category by raising $10,000 or more in the last 12 months
Due to the economy and the large upfront investment for software and build-out required to start a house network, nonprofits are taking a serious look at ROI concerning for this form of social networking.
- 22% Reported operating one or more house networks in 2010 (28% decrease from 2009)
- 75% Valued their house networks
- 74% Reported that they are very or somewhat satisfied with their investment
- 57% Used their house social network primarily for marketing
Although many nonprofits see social media as a free way to market their organizations, is it really ‘free.’ Time is money and quality takes time.
- Nonprofits that committed two or more full-time employees to the management of their commercial social networking communities experienced the highest level of satisfaction.
- 50% Indicated they will increase staffing related to commercial social networks in the coming 12 months
- 67% Allocated less than half of a full-time employee’s time to commercial social networks
- 57% Allocated less than half of a full-time employee’s time to house social networks
For more information on this report, visit Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, Allison Fine’s Blog, or The Networked Nonprofit by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter.
Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report
Does advertising and marketing your nonprofit seem too daunting a task? We have a book for that! The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula by Tom Feltenstein gives a common sense view on how to incorporate marketing tactics at the community level. The book is written for a For-Profit audience but is easily relatable for Non-Profit organizations. Tom Feltenstein walks the reader through:
- • The marketing process beginning with actionable research strategies
- • How to use different media vehicles
- • Resources you can use along the way.
You will also take some side trips and learn about legal pitfalls and ways to track your progress. Companies like Habitat for Humanity have used The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula with great success. This book, with its humor and relatable stories, is an easy read for those not intimately familiar with marketing terminology. In my opinion, this book’s main value lies in the easy, common sense ideas it suggests that, when put together, add up to a well rounded community marketing plan.
The 10-Minute Marketer’s Secret Formula: a shortcut to extraordinary profits using neighborhood marketing
The Foundation Center has recently enhanced their website with some great new features. And, although you will still need to visit the Kalamazoo Public Library to search the Foundation Directory for grants, the website offers many other helpful resources you can access from your home or office.
When you first enter the Foundation Center’s website, the amount of information can seem overwhelming. The best place to start is in the mustard yellow tool guide located near the top of the page. The headings listed in the tool guide make navigating through the website as easy as a drop down with a click. Much of the information can be found in multiple areas.
- Get Started heading is a general overview of what the website has to offer as far as resources and tools.
- Some are fee based, but most are free
- Offers information pertaining to specific organizational topics
- Most helpful are the Learn About and Training Courses
- Classroom trainings are only offered in select cities, I recommend going directly to the free training videos and webinar
- Find Funders heading offers a link to the Foundation Center Directory as well as other helpful tools for grant writing
- The Foundation Center is accessible for a fee/ save money by using the computers in ONEplace at no cost
- Related Tools and Check Statistics
- RFP templates and prospect worksheets
- Gain Knowledge. This section is the equivalent of having a nonprofit library at your fingertips.
- A plethora of articles about the economic crisis, global issues, best practices, research reports, and much more
- Glass Pockets and Pub Hub are new programs of the Foundation Center
- FREE Philanthropy News Digest eNewsletter subscription for up-to-date information
- View Events header is useful for accessing archived videos, audio, transcripts, and webinars at no cost
- A lot of what is found in this section can also be found under other headings. Save time by checking the date of the event to prevent duplication
The Foundation Center website can be found at http://foundationcenter.org/. What I found most valuable were the free webinars, videos, and audio recordings; especially the Introduction to Fundraising Planning Online Training Course. Write back and let me know what you found to be most valuable and share your thoughts with other who could benefit from the Foundation Center website.